|The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby|
|Written by|| Charles Dickens (novel) |
David Edgar (play)
|Place premiered|| Aldwych Theatre |
|Subject||Redemption, social renewal and benevolent capitalism |
|Setting||Early 19th century, London England|
The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby is an 8½ hour-long adaptation of Charles Dickens’ 1839 novel, performed in two parts. Part 1 was 4 hours in length with one interval of 15 minutes. Part 2 was 4½ hours in length with two intervals of 12 minutes. It was originally presented onstage over two evenings, or in its entirety from early afternoon with a dinner break. Later it was presented on television over four evenings.
The opening night was on 5 June 1980. The show ran for an 8-week season at the Aldwych Theatre, playing Part 1 on some nights and Part 2 on others with both parts playing together on matinée and evening performances. It was revived for two further 8-week runs at the Aldwych in the autumn season of 1980 and the spring season of 1981 before being filmed for Primetime TV at the Old Vic Theatre and transferring to Broadway for the autumn season of 1981. A further revival with a substantially different cast played at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford and toured to Los Angeles and Broadway in 1985.
The play was adapted by David Edgar from the Charles Dickens novel The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby . Directed by John Caird and Trevor Nunn, the music and lyrics were from Stephen Oliver and the set design was by John Napier and Dermot Hayes.  It transferred to the Plymouth Theatre on Broadway, initially opening 4 October 1981 and running until 3 January 1982.  Revivals of the original production were produced in 1986 (which returned to USA for a Broadway run and national tour) and a truncated version from 2006 to 2008.
The original London cast included Roger Rees as Nicholas, David Threlfall as Smike, Ben Kingsley as Squeers, Bob Peck as John Browdie and Sir Mulberry Hawk, John Woodvine as Ralph Nickleby, Susan Littler as Kate, Edward Petherbridge as Newman Noggs, Timothy Spall as Young Wackford and Mr. Folair, John McEnery as Mr. Mantalini, William the Waiter and Mr. Snevellicci, Graham Crowden as Mr. Vincent Crummles, and Suzanne Bertish as Fanny Squeers, Peg Sliderskew and Miss Snevellicci, among many others.  All actors apart from Rees played multiple roles. Some parts were recast in November 1980, with Fulton Mackay playing Squeers, Emily Richard taking the role of Kate Nickleby and Christopher Benjamin as Crummles.  Fulton Mackay and Timothy Spall had left the company by the time the production was filmed and were replaced by Alun Armstrong and Ian McNeice respectively.  When the Aldwych production closed in the summer of 1981 the set was moved to the Old Vic Theatre and the work performed for a four-part mini-series by Channel 4 and Mobil Showcase Theatre.,  which was telecast in the US in January 1983.
The full-length version of the play was produced by three American companies subsequent to the RSC. The Great Lakes Theatre Festival, formerly Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival in 1982 with a revival in 1983, directed by Edward Stern and Robert Lanchester, and Kansas City Repertory Theater, formerly Missouri Repertory Theater, directed by James Assad and Leon Rubin in 1983. The third production was in February and March 1984 by the students at Herbert Henry Dow High School, Midland, Michigan, directed by J. Michael Reilly. 
An Australian production played at the Theatre Royal in Sydney from December 1983 to March 1984, and later in Melbourne and Adelaide from December 1984 to March 1985. It featured John Howard as Nicholas and Tony Taylor as Smike. 
The production was revived for the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, in January 1986. A second Broadway production ran from 24 August 1986 to 12 October 1986 at the Broadhurst Theatre and was nominated for the 1987 Tony Award for Best Revival.  A production by the Hilberry Theatre was named best play of the 1987-88 season in the Detroit Free Press theater awards. 
Despite the play's success, its length and the size of the cast required means that it is seldom revived, although in 2006 Edgar prepared a shorter version for a production at the Chichester Festival, which transferred in December 2007 and January 2008 to the Gielgud Theatre in the West End. The production, directed by Philip Franks and Jonathan Church went on to perform at the Prince of Wales Theatre in Toronto, Canada. This version has been produced in the US by the California Shakespeare Festival,  Playmakers Repertory Theater  and a production was performed at The Lyric Stage Company of Boston in October – December 2010. 
Although audience reception was enthusiastic, critical reception was mixed.  Frank Rich in New York Times reported dull passages piling up as "dead weight",  while John Simon in the New York Magazine felt that the work was a "middlebrow enterprise" doing "scant justice" to the novel. In contrast Mel Gussow, again in The New York Times, noted that "Nicholas Nickleby remains true to Dickens – many of the lines are taken directly from the novel, dialogue as well as narration – and to first principles of theater" when describing the RSC's recast production in 1986.  Playwright and reviewer Thomas Hischak, writing in retrospect about the 1981–82 New York season, judged the production as the "centerpiece of the season...a theatrical experience of a lifetime"  and in London Bernard Levin of The Times found "a ceaselessly entertaining...dramatic triumph" and despaired of the cavils of his fellow critics. He concluded: "…we come out not merely delighted but strengthened, not just entertained but uplifted, not only affected but changed." 
Edgar's writing for the stage is avowedly political and his treatment of Dickens's novel, with its descriptions of poverty and as its central subject matter the wickedness of money-broker Ralph Nickleby, sought to draw parallels between the social conditions of 1830s Britain with what he saw as the growing political climate of selfishness in the 1980s. However, some critics felt that the RSC's ebullient staging, the necessary happy ending (brought about by benevolent capitalism as represented by the Cheeryble brothers) and even the huge commercial success of the play itself diminished the impact of Edgar's message.  
Channel 4 filmed the play as it was performed in a theatre, The Old Vic, shortly before the RSC took the show to Broadway.  Two extra versions of "the story so far" (which originally recapped part one for theatregoers returning for part two) were written, staged, and filmed, to introduce the second and fourth acts for television.
The Company (in alphabetical order):
In the final episode of Season 3 of the U.S. drama television series The West Wing, the cast of a production of John Barton's The Wars of the Roses performs a rendition of "Patriotic Song" from The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby. The song is performed almost in its entirety, under the final scene of the episode. Earlier in the same episode, the fictional President Bartlet quotes the chorus of "victorious in war shall be made glorious in peace" as he mulls the decision to commit a political assassination. 
Dandy Nichols was an English actress best known for her role as Else Garnett, the long-suffering wife of the character Alf Garnett who was a parody of a working class Tory, in the BBC sitcom Till Death Us Do Part.
Nicholas Nickleby, or The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, is the third novel by Charles Dickens, originally published as a serial from 1838 to 1839. The character of Nickleby is a young man who must support his mother and sister after his father dies.
Roger Rees was a Welsh actor and director, widely known for his stage work. He won an Olivier Award and a Tony Award for his performance as the lead in The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby. He also received Obie Awards for his role in The End of the Day and as co-director of Peter and the Starcatcher. Rees was posthumously inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame in November 2015.
Alan Armstrong, known professionally as Alun Armstrong, is an English character actor. He grew up in County Durham in North East England, and first became interested in acting through Shakespeare productions at his grammar school. Since his career began in the early 1970s, he has played, in his words, "the full spectrum of characters from the grotesque to musicals... I always play very colourful characters, often a bit crazy, despotic, psychotic".
John Woodvine is an English actor who has appeared in more than 70 theatre productions, as well as a similar number of television and film roles.
Smike is a pop musical adaptation of a small part of Charles Dickens' 1839 novel Nicholas Nickleby, that was televised for the BBC in 1973. The musical is based on the character Smike from that novel. The TV production starred Beryl Reid as Mrs Squeers, Andrew Keir as Mr Squeers, Leonard Whiting as Nicholas, and Ian Sharrock as Smike. The original cast also featured DJ Neil Fox, a pupil at Kingston Grammar, as one of the schoolboys. A cast album was released on Pye records, including the songs from that production, but not all of the songs used in the stage version. The complete score was re-recorded in 1983 and released on a double album featuring Jill Gascoine, Oliver Tobias and Mike Holoway.
David John Threlfall is an English stage, film and television actor and director. He is best known for playing Frank Gallagher in Channel 4's series Shameless. He has also directed several episodes of the show. In April 2014, he portrayed comedian Tommy Cooper in a television film entitled Tommy Cooper: Not Like That, Like This. In 2014, he starred alongside Jude Law in the thriller Black Sea. In 2022 he received a Tony Award for Best Leading Actor in a Play for his performance in the Martin McDonagh play Hangmen.
John Carlisle was an English television and stage actor.
The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby is a British TV film which aired in 2001, directed by Stephen Whittaker, based on the 1839 novel Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens.
John Newport Caird is an English stage director and writer of plays, musicals and operas. He is an honorary associate director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, was for many years a regular director with the Royal National Theatre of Great Britain and is the principal guest director of the Royal Dramatic Theatre, Stockholm (Dramaten).
Suzanne Bertish is an English actress.
Nicholas Nickleby is a 2002 British-American period comedy-drama film written and directed by Douglas McGrath. The screenplay is based on The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens, which originally was published in serial form between March 1838 and September 1839. Charlie Hunnam stars in the titular role alongside Nathan Lane, Jim Broadbent, Christopher Plummer, Jamie Bell, Anne Hathaway, Romola Garai, Alan Cumming, and Timothy Spall.
The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby is a 1947 British drama film directed by Alberto Cavalcanti and starring Cedric Hardwicke. The screenplay by John Dighton is based on the Charles Dickens novel The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby (1839). This first sound screen adaptation of the book followed silent films released in 1903 and 1912.
The Shakespeare Center was the home of the Riverside Shakespeare Company, an Equity professional theatre company in New York City, established in 1980 and dedicated in 1982, when the company established its center of theatre production and advanced actor training at the 90-year-old West-Park Presbyterian Church on Amsterdam Avenue at West 86th Street. The Shakespeare Center's facilities consisted of the main offices of the Riverside Shakespeare Company, costume and set construction and storage rooms, a main lobby, and a theatre in the balcony of the church equipped with lighting and sound amplification.
Christopher Ravenscroft is an English actor, best known for his recurring role as DI Mike Burden in The Ruth Rendell Mysteries, the ITV adaptation of Ruth Rendell's Inspector Wexford mysteries.
Emily Richard is a British actress and a former member of the Royal Shakespeare Company.
Nicholas Nickleby is a 1912 American silent short drama film directed by George Nichols, adapted from Charles Dickens' 1839 novel of the same name. The two-reel film stars Harry Benham in the title role and Mignon Anderson.
The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby is a nine-hour adaptation of the novel by Charles Dickens. It is a recording of the stage play by The Royal Shakespeare Company at The Old Vic in London. It was Channel 4's first major drama commission.
Nicholas Nickleby is a British television series which first aired on the BBC in 1957. It is based on the novel Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens.
Nicholas Nickleby is a British television series which first aired on the BBC in 1977. It is based on the novel Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens.
The original London production is documented in Freeman, John, The Greatest Shows on Earth: World Theatre from Peter Brook to the Sydney Olympics. Libri: Oxford ISBN 978 1 907471 54 4.