Nicholas Nickleby - The Musical
Act I
Nicholas Nickleby’s father has been financially ruined and has died, leaving Nicholas, his mother and sister Kate with no home or money. They travel to London to ask the help of Ralph, Nicholas’s uncle, a wealthy businessman. Ralph takes an instant dislike to Nicholas, and plots to divide the family and exploit Kate.

He organizes a job for Nicholas far away in Yorkshire at a brutal, remote school, run by Wackford Squeers. Kate is forced to work as a milliner for one of Ralph’s debtors in order to keep herself and her mother.

In Yorkshire, Nicholas suffers the unwanted attentions of Squeers’ daughter, Fanny, and gains the trust of Smike, a boy abandoned at the school. When Smike attempts to run away, Nicholas rescues him from Squeers, and the two take to the road.

Prevented by Ralph from returning to London, they find their way to Portsmouth, where they join the Crummles Theatre Company.

Meanwhile, in London, Ralph uses Kate as bait to further ensnare a young Lord who is already in debt to him. Lord Frederick Verisopht is drawn in, but has a rival in his coarse-mannered, arrogant advisor, Sir Mulberry Hawk. Hawk’s attentions get out of hand, and Kate appeals to Ralph, who refuses to intervene.

Nicholas's theatrical career is abruptly cut short when Nicholas receives a letter saying that Kate needs his help, and he and Smike return to London.

Act II
When Nicholas returns to London, he confronts Hawk and removes his mother and sister from Ralph. Ralph is further aggravated by a visit from Brooker, his old clerk, trying to sell him a secret.

Nicholas’ fortunes begin to change when he takes a job with the Cheeryble Brothers. He helps the Cheerybles assist Madeleine Bray, whose father is in debt. However, unbeknown to Nicholas, this debt is owed to Ralph, and Arthur Gride, an old moneylender, has agreed to settle this in exchange for marrying Madeline. Nicholas finds out and intervenes, and Bray dies naturally before the wedding can take place.

Meanwhile Peg Sliderskew, Gride’s housekeeper, afraid of being displaced by the new bride, steals a will which Gride has been hiding and which proves Madeline is heir to a fortune. Ralph arranges for Squeers to try to recover the will, but Squeers fails when his wife arrives from Yorkshire unexpectedly and finds him with Peg. Peg then sends the will to Madeline.

When Smike becomes ill and dies, Brooker reveals that Smike was Ralph’s son from a secret marriage. Brooker had placed him at the school, telling Ralph that he had died. Unable to bear the thought of his son brutalised for years and then dying with Nicholas as his best friend, Ralph hangs himself.

Nicholas marries Madeline, and Kate marries Frank Cheeryble. The two men inherit the Cheerybles’ business, which becomes “Cheeryble and Nickleby”.