Meet the cast:
Wuthering Heights promises to be Acting Loft’s musical triumph
By William Wright firstname.lastname@example.org
At first glance, the cast of Wuthering Heights, a musical making its North American premiere at The Acting Loft in May, wasn’t quite prepared for the show’s large and challenging score.
“When they came into the first rehearsal, I handed everyone their music book, and their eyes bugged out,” said director Christopher Courage. “Then I explained that there is no script, that the entire thing is sung, and they relaxed. That meant they didn’t have to memorize any lines.”
But that doesn’t mean the pressure is totally off for this cast of about 30 community actors. Emily Bronte’s masterpiece is one of the best-known love stories of all time, and the roles of Catherine and Heathcliff, the tortured soul mates who can’t live with or without one another, are strongly identified with Sir Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon, who played the pair in the classic 1939 film.
Courage says he had those archetypes in his mind while casting his version, but wasn’t completely married to them.
“I think the movie portrayed Cathy as a fragile, sickly girl, and that’s only part of the equation,” he said. “She was also wild, untamed. She had the heart of a gypsy girl.”
With that in mind, Courage cast local actress Candace Glickman in the coveted role. Glickman is a former Miss New Hampshire who teaches youth theater classes at the Loft, but rarely performs with the Loft’s community theater group.
“I’m really excited about playing Catherine,” Glickman said. “It’s been a while since I’ve done a show and the fact that this show hasn’t been done anywhere else makes it more exciting.”
“Candace has been performing across town with the Majestic Theatre for years and years,” Courage said. “She is very careful about the shows she auditions for. She doesn’t just go out for everything. She makes sure there’s a role in a show that’s right for her. I was very happy when she came through the door at auditions. She has a beautiful voice and she is perfect for Cathy.”
Glickman brought along a friend, 18-year-old Michael Galligan, who had never auditioned for the Loft before. In fact, he’d never done any theater outside of the occasional school play.
“He was nervous,” Courage said. “But when he opened his mouth to sing, I was floored. He has an amazing voice. The chemistry between he and Candace was very believable. They seemed very natural together.”
And with that, the roles of Cathy and Heathcliff were filled. Where Courage had trouble, he says, was with the role of Nellie, house servant for the Earnshaw family and Cathy’s confidante. In the play, Nellie serves as the narrator of the action.
“The book calls for Nellie to be a contemporary of Cathy’s, but I saw her more as a mother figure,” Courage said. “We went back and forth on that.”
Ultimately, the role went to actress Barbara Morash, who is also a vocal teacher and opera singer. Morash is older than Glickman, so Courage got his wish of making the role more of a surrogate parent.
Then came another dilemma: the rather thankless role of Isabella Linton, who married Heathcliff to spite her rich family, and spent most of her life miserable because of it. Alyssa Dumas, a 13-year-old veteran of countless Acting Loft youth shows, wowed Courage at her audition. But Courage wasn’t sure if she was old enough to understand the complexities of the role. That concern was quickly put to rest after the first rehearsal, when the actors delved into character development.
“Alyssa is an old soul,” Courage said. “She has thrown herself into this role and tried to learn all she can about the character’s feelings and motivations.”
For Dumas, the role is a chance to stretch her acting chops beyond the typical kid fare she’s used to.
“Alyssa was worried about constantly being cast in children’s shows as the loudmouth, the comic relief.” Courage said. “In her audition, she showed a whole different side of herself and her talent.”
Dumas knows she has her work cut out for her. The young actress has been preparing for the role by reading Bronte’s book. “Everyone keeps telling me that I’ve got the hardest role in the show,” she said. “It has been a challenge, but so far it’s good for me.”
Rounding out the leads is Nathan Barnes, who plays Heathcliff’s archenemy, Hindley. Barnes has some experience playing the heavy: he starred in the Acting Loft’s 2003 production of “Sweeney Todd.”
“I’ve played the bad guy before,” Barnes said. “But Hindley’s a little different. Something happened to him. He lost his father and everything fell apart. He’s always felt like an outsider. He covers it up by shutting people out.”
Courage said the principals aren’t the only stars of the show: the rather large chorus serves a variety of purposes. Think “Greek chorus,” and you’re on the right track.
“The chorus has more numbers than anyone else in the show,” he said. “They play multiple roles, including the moors of Wuthering Heights. At different points in the show the moors are supposed to come alive and help tell the story.”
Wuthering Heights will run May 12, 13, 19 and 20 at The Acting Loft studio, located at 516 Pine Street in Manchester. Show time is 7:30 p.m. each evening. For more information, visit www.actingloft.org.