Mark Seaward, editor of Brontë Society Transactions, in his annotations to this album, notes that the novel Wuthering Heights has attracted a variety of adaptors who have transferred its story into plays, films, television shows, a ballet, and an opera. This version, presented as a studio-cast recording, Seaward claims, "marks the first time that the true spirit and drama of Emily Brontë's masterpiece has been captured in a musical." If so, you have to wonder whether Wuthering Heights is really a good subject for musical adaptation. It's hard to blame songwriter Bernard J. Taylor for trying. After all, he's just following on from Andrew Lloyd Webber, Claude-Michel Schönberg, and Frank Wildhorn in choosing a conveniently out-of-copyright 19th century novel and stringing together a series of sub-operatic adult contemporary ballads into a song score. That score, gamely sung by Dave Willetts as Heathcliff and Lesley Garrett as Cathy, with a few other characters having occasional numbers, is predictably pedestrian, both because there is little musical variety (it's just one overwrought belter after another) and because the lyrics are little more than a sequence of clichés. But even if it were better written and composed, would a musical version of Wuthering Heights work? The material is unremittingly bleak, as the protagonists' love is frustrated by little more than spite. On the page, Brontë is able to invest her story with atmosphere and internal conflict. But on record one is left with only the residue of that literary accomplishment, so that the musical is just a gloss, not an independent version. Seaward calls Wuthering Heights the book "an intensely dramatic work, charged with emotion," and he may be right, but if Taylor has really caught its "true spirit and drama" here, then he needn't have bothered with such a wasted effort.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
|Wuthering Heights, musical|