Rehearsals underway for “Wuthering Heights”

Whether it’s the harsh moors of Yorkshire or the sun scorched deserts of Rajasthan, extreme weather is a major feature of Wuthering Heights; so it’s perhaps fitting that the first day of rehearsals was cancelled because of the snowstorms that brought Britain to a standstill.

However, undeterred by bad weather and refreshed after a day of building snowmen, the first day of rehearsals took place on Tuesday. The company gathered at the Lyric Hammersmith (the show’s London venue) and the room was packed with everyone involved with the show, both onstage and off. Even at this early stage you get a sense of how big this production is going to be.

Kristine Landon Smith, the show’s director and Tamasha’s co-Artistic Director, has plenty of experience directing large scale shows and musicals, but even a seasoned professional still gets a case of first day jitters:

“Finally first day of rehearsals. Highest records of snow in eighteen years meant we had to cancel it ! I couldn’t believe it, I had woken during Sunday night (I always have a fitful sleep the night before first day of rehearsals) and had not felt optimistic. When we decided to cancel at 7am on Monday morning, my immediate thought was that I would have another day of preparation for what lay ahead. That meant 45 laps in the pool on Monday afternoon – some directors pore over their scripts, I did a six-mile run on Saturday and another 45 laps on Sunday! The thing that is so important for me during a rehearsal period is to have the right energy level to maintain a lively rehearsal room with a large company over the course of five weeks. And that takes some doing – particularly on day one. Introductions, sharing your vision for the show, quickly building the right atmosphere, and persuading a whole range of people to come along with you.”

Kristine working with actors at a 'Wuthering Heights' workshop November 2008
Kristine working with actors at a “Wuthering Heights” workshop, part of Musical Futures at Greenwich Theatre, November 2008. Photo: John Zammit

With all that exercise, it’s amazing that she can still stand up, but her infectious energy is already rubbing off on the rest of the company. Pretty soon, she and the cast will be keeping the snow at bay and will have turned this rehearsal room into the world of Rajasthan, full of song, dance and music.

Music is perhaps one of the first things you think of when someone mentions Bollywood, and this show will be no exception. In keeping with the Bollywood tradition, all the music will be prerecorded and the actors will lip-synch to the songs during the musical numbers just like they do in the movies; but it’s not just being recorded anywhere.

On the other side of the world and far away from the snow of England, Musical Supervisor John Rigby has been in Bangalore, India recording the music for the show with co-arranger Chandru and his musicians at Bollywood Strings:

“I’ve been in India for about 10 days so far and I can’t remember when I last had a more exciting or interesting time working on a show! It’s pretty hectic here, schedules are constantly changing and Chandru has done an amazing job of keeping everything on track! At times the work is a little frustrating as we have to record each musician separately and so it is sometimes hard to imagine what the final result will be until it is all put together, but we are very excited by what we are hearing and it really feels like we are creating something very new. The quality of the musicianship here is very high and they have such pride and passion about their instruments that it is a real pleasure to work with them.

Yesterday we had sessions all day and evening with the guitarists, and several other local musicians – all Chandru’s friends – turned up to hear. Of course events led onto Chandru’s terrace at the end of work and the whiskey was poured freely as we looked at pictures on the internet of London in the snow! Chandru is both a wonderful musician to work with and a fantastic host. The food and weather is amazing although there has barely been time to leave the studio. I hope I at least see the city before I have to board a flight home a week tomorrow. There is much to do before then though and our sitar player awaits so I’ll have to sign off. Can’t wait to hear the final mixes and put everything together back in London (and have a roast dinner and a proper pint!) but for now I’ll enjoy every moment of the culture, people and music of this wonderful country.”

When the music is complete in another week (providing the whiskey doesn’t flow too freely), we all look forward to hearing the amazing work that John, Chandru and his team have done. Until then, if you’re looking for somewhere to keep warm and beat the cold, you might just find, tucked away in Hammersmith, a sunny little corner of India.

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