Theatre Review: Cal Shakes Presents "Nicholas Nickleby"

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(Orinda, CA)
Monday, July 18, 2005

Twenty-five years ago, the Royal Shakespeare Company premiered “Nicholas Nickleby,” a mammoth adaptation widely hailed as a masterpiece. But it’s seldom performed, mostly because you need a platoon of actors to stage it. Now, after decades, “Nickleby” is back on stage in this country – at California Shakespeare Theatre, in Orinda. And while the script has been streamlined a bit by the playwright, it remains a spectacle: Part One features three hours of sumptuous theater, with 23 actors in six dozen roles, each in a different costume. 

But “Nickleby” is more than big. It’s engrossing, with heroes and villains and unexpected turns, depicting the best and the worst of Dickens’ England. And the worst could be grim. Here’s a scene with the despicable Wackford Squeers, a nasty schoolmaster who beats a disabled boy, prompting a confrontation with Nicklelby.


This production features stunning visuals, fed by Dickens’ uncanny ability with eccentric characters. Scores of artists, on and off stage, have labored mightily to make this show a special experience -- and it is. “Nicholas Nickleby, Part One” is at California Shakespeare in Orinda through August 7, followed by Part Two in late August. Jeff Hudson, KXJZ News.