I recently had a great time at the theater. Mind you, I don’t go to the theater very often. The last time I saw a play in Boston might have been ten years ago. It has to be pretty special to get me to drop the big bucks and commit to an evening like that. Well, this was more than special.
First some background. Back in 1981, the Royal Shakespeare Company of London adapted Charles Dickens’ novel, “The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby”, for the stage. The resulting production was “The Best Thing Ever”. Not to overstate the case, I sincerely mean that the production (which I had only seen on video) was the best instance of storytelling – play, film, book, video, whatever – I’ve ever seen, and it remains so to this date.
That production, in attempting to do justice to the breadth and length of the novel, ran a full eight hours. It was usually seen in four two-hour sessions. I’ve watched it straight through on video (albeit in the comfort of my home) on a number of occasions. It’s worth every second.
This past Saturday, I finally had a chance to see the play live with my wife and daughter. The production was held at the Lyric Stage Company in Boston. While it could never hope to equal the extraordinary quality of the RSC production, it was superb and wildly entertaining. Truncated to a mere six hours, the essence of the story was still there (and then some) and nothing would have been missed by anyone who is not intimately familiar with the story.
There are 150 characters in the play. In a feat of tremendous dexterity, they are portrayed by only 24 performers. I applaud the cast and crew of the Lyric Stage for undertaking such an ambitious production and for succeeding at same. I highly recommend it to anyone who loves great stories and great storytelling.
You have to be willing to sit in a theater for six hours over two three-hour sessions, but you’ll be rewarded.