Categorised as a pop-musical, this work was devised in 1973 by Simon May and Clive Barnet, teachers at Kingston Grammar School, with Roger Harman as a song writing partner. Since its launch it has proved to be a very popular choice of production by schools and youth groups for a variety of reasons that understandably make it appealing to young people. Much of the music is lively and the innovative choreography devised by Robert Anderson to accompany the songs in this production was enthusiastically and energetically performed. Set in an educational establishment the early songs in the show feature happenings that occur as routine in many schools – these include “The daily test”, “Doing things by numbers” and “Stop. And just think who you could be”.
A new English teacher joins the staff and experiences difficulty in persuading the class to take an interest in the book they are studying, which is “Nicholas Nickleby” by Charles Dickens. Things change dramatically when the teacher decides to turn this story into a musical in which the less attractive aspects of schooling in times past are featured in order that comparisons with the present may lead the youngsters to consider that their experiences are perhaps not as bad as they first thought.
There are many issues touched upon in the lyrics and libretto for this show which young people have to come to terms with during their formative years, such as violence, neglect, kindness, fairness, justice and self-worth; the renditions of “Don’t let life get you down” and “Here I am”, were amazing. I understand that preparations and rehearsals for this show were beset with many difficulties. However, the boundless energy, good humour, dedication and commitment of this young cast and the patience of the Producer and Director resulted in their delivering a most impressive performance which I am sure they will remember for many years to come. Well done all who were involved in this production – the audience really loved it.