Nicholas Nickleby - The Musical
Principals
Ralph Nickleby Wealthy businessman, Nicholas and Kate's Uncle
Cold, self-centered and controlling, Ralph cut himself off from his family and made his own way in life, becoming wealthy through moneylending and speculation. In the book, Ralph is involved with what would today be called insider trading. He objects to being put upon by his brother's dependents, and takes a particular dislike to Nicholas. Javert to Nicholas's Valjean, he has a similar rigid value system and meets a similar end.
Voice: Baritone.
Newman Noggs Ralph's Clerk
Nervous and alcoholic, and never far from a bottle. Noggs nonetheless has a strong sense of justice, and is a vital ally for Nicholas, helping him overcome Ralph's plotting. Quite a comic character, as servants - particularly those of villains - often are. In the book, Noggs is prone to nervous twitching. Baldrick to Ralph's Blackadder.
Voice: Non-singing part except for chorus numbers.
Nicholas Nickleby Male lead
The hero, around 21 years old. Young, spirited and enthusiastic, keen to see the best in people. He is also strong willed, impetuous and rather short tempered, with his righteous indignation easily spilling over into physical violence. He does, however, befriend both Smike and Madeline, and ultimately sees justice done.
Voice: Tenor, with several songs.
Kate Nickleby Nicholas's sister
One or two years younger than Nicholas. Initially seeming rather passive and in awe of her Uncle, Kate is the first to question his actions, hinting at her true strength. She is determined to help herself, and is stoic in accepting her fate at Mantalini's. As she gains confidence, she is resolute in her rejection of Hawk, and helps Nicholas rescue Madeline. Largest of the female parts.
Voice: Soprano.
Mrs. Nickleby Nicholas's mother
In the book, Mrs. Nickleby's main character trait is never stopping talking. She takes things at face value and talks herself into expecting all kinds of wonderful outcomes, as she demonstrates in the song 'Fine Beginnings'. Something of a caricature, given the mixture of air-headedness, wild imagination and frantic patter-song.
Voice: Mezzo-Soprano.
Wackford Squeers Headmaster of Dotheboys Hall
A true comic grotesque, along with the rest of his family. Ideally, the whole Squeers family should have broad Yorkshire accents. Though coarse, brutal and self-serving, Squeers is essentially a pantomime villain. The audience is left to guess whether he is too lazy to teach properly, or too ignorant. Squeers and Mrs. Squeers are the Thénardiers of the show.
Voice: Bass-Baritone.
Smike Boy abandoned at Dotheboys Hall when small
17 or 18 years old, Smike cannot remember life before Dotheboys Hall. Once the fee payments stopped, Smike became a general drudge for the Squeers, who have used and ill-treated him for years. The abuse has left him both mentally and physically scarred, as portrayed by the young David Threlfall in the seminal RSC production. He initially has no self-confidence or hope, but he grows when he meets Nicholas and experiences friendship for the first time, and is loyal to Nicholas to the end. Smike dies before it is revealed that he was Ralph's son.
Voice: Tenor.
Mrs. Squeers Squeers' wife and matron of Dotheboys Hall
A comic grotesque and pantomime villain, like her husband. Wackford and Mrs. Squeers are very much a couple, and are the Thénardiers of the show.
Voice: Mezzo-Soprano.
Charles Cheeryble One of the twin Cheeryble Brothers
Ned Cheeryble One of the twin Cheeryble Brothers
The philanthropic Cheerybles are of an age to be approaching retirement. Typical Dickens caricatures of good, they are set apart from general society both by being twins and by being foreign - Dickens describes them as 'German merchants'. The former provides a degree of pantomime, for example with identical costumes and mannerisms. The latter reinforces them as good Samaritans when they become Nicholas's benefactors.
Voice: Baritone.
Madeline Bray Nicholas's love interest
Aged around 18-19, Madeline has dedicated herself to keeping and caring for her father, working hard and never thinking of herself. Bray treats Madeline as a servant, and shows little or no love for her. However, she remains dedicated to him even when he agrees to sell her to be married to Arthur Gride in order to clear his debts. Her feelings for Nicholas are hidden in the presence of her father, but are revealed to the audience in moments alone and in their duet, 'New Song'.
Voice: Soprano.
Supporting Characters
Fanny Squeers Squeers' daughter
Another comic grotesque, spoilt and self-centred. Around the same age as Nicholas, she sees him as exotic and a potential catch. Lacking any social skills, Fanny fails to attract his attention and manages to fall out with her best friend at the same time.
Voice: Soprano.
Matilda Price Fanny Squeers' newly engaged friend
Normal girl, pleased to be recently engaged and considering this one-up on Fanny. She flirts with Nicholas to show how easy she finds the game, annoying both Fanny and her fiancé.
Voice: Soprano.
John Browdie Matilda's Fiancé
Rather bluff Yorkshire farmer, straight talking and honest. John is initially bemused by Matilda's antics, then becomes angry.
Voice: Baritone.
Mme. Mantalini Proprietor of Mantalini's Milliners and Dressmakers
The face of Mantalini's, floating along above the reality of the sweat shop below. She either doesn't think or doesn't care about her employees - she presides over dreadful conditions for her girls, and readily sends her supervisor, Miss Knag, back to the workshop when an important client asks for Kate instead. She is easily flattered by her husband, who uses this to his advantage.
Voice: Non-singing part.
Mantalini Mme. Mantalini's husband
Smooth tongued gentleman of leisure - a fop and a dandy, living high on the income from his wife's business, and paying more than a passing interest in her girls. His excesses have actually run them into debt - in the book Mme. Mantalini only finds out when the business is repossessed.
Voice: Non-singing part.
Sir Mulberry Hawk Advisor to Lord Frederick Verisopht
Confident and self-assured, Hawk is the centre of attention of his circle and indeed about town. Hawk is deferential to Verisopht, whose fortune he is steadily acquiring, but has little patience with those he considers beneath him. Used to getting his own way, he fixes his unwelcome attentions on Kate. There's a touch of pantomime villain in his flirting - think "Have some madeira, m'dear"!
Voice: Baritone.
Lord Frederick Verisopht Young aristocrat
Gradually being swindled out of his fortune by Hawk, Verisopht is an innocent abroad. A thinking version of Hugh Lawries's Prince Regent from Blackadder.
Voice: Baritone.
Pyke Companion to Sir Mulberry Hawk
Pluck Companion to Sir Mulberry Hawk
Pyke & Pluck enjoy the reflected glory of being Hawk's companions, and are quick to flatter him. They also have a more sinister purpose in the book - as his bailifs and "persuaders".
Voice: Baritone.
Vincent Crummles Owner-proprietor of Crummles Theatre Company
A larger than life Ac-tor with a capital A, Crummles is gifted in self-promotion if not as a performer. The best parts in his shows and the top billing are reserved for the Crummles family, including the daughter Ninetta - the "Infant Phenomenon". Loud and hammy, Crummles speaks in block capitals - imagine Brian Blessed in a restoration comedy...
Voice: Baritone.
Mrs. Crummles Actress, Crummles' wife
Like Crummles, also larger than life.
Voice: Non-singing part.
Brooker Ralph's ex-clerk
Since leaving Ralph's service, Brooker has been convicted and transported, so is world-worn and shabby. His criminal background needs to come over in his first, rather sinister approach to Ralph, though by the end he is concerned more with setting the record straight.
Voice: Non-singing part.
Walter Bray One of Ralph's debtors, father of Madeline
Key to the plot, Bray is cold, selfish and bitter. A small part, as the plot is formed around him by Gride and Ralph.
Voice: Non-singing part.
Arthur Gride Old moneylender
Seedy, old and repellant as a match for the innocent 19 year old Madeline. Similar to Squeers as a grotesque, but lacking his attraction as a pantomime villain. Gride is balanced by his grotesque housekeeper, Peg.
Voice: Non-singing part.
Peg Sliderskew Gride's housekeeper
Another grotesque, a great cameo part. Ugly, coarse and well past her sell-by date, Peg is angry and bitter at the prospect of Gride's new bride coming between her and what she sees as her rightful inheritance. Peg's vitriol comes out in her song, one of only two solos in the show, "Soldier On".
Voice: Alto.
Frank Cheeryble The Cheeryble Brothers' nephew
A similar age to Nicholas, Frank has a supporting role as Kate's future husband and Nicholas's future business partner.
Voice: Non-singing part.
Company
Snawley Prospective customer for Squeers
Young Wackford Squeers' son
Miss Knag Supervisor at Mantalini's Dressmakers
Miss Simmonds One of Mantalini's girls
Landlord Of the inn near Portsmouth
Folair Actor in Crummles Theatre Company
Ninetta Crummles The "Infant Phenomenon", daughter of Crummles
Servant Bray's housekeeper
Childrens Chorus Boys at Dotheboys Hall; Street children
Girls Chorus Mantalini's girls
Chorus Londoners, Crummles Theatre Company
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