Lyric Top 40: Marathon Day at Nicholas Nickleby

“What do you mean, it’s two plays?”
When we announced in the spring of 2010 we were mounting The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, Parts I & II in repertory, there was a lot of excitement from the theater and the audience alike. It was, after all, one of the largest productions in the history of the Lyric. We had been funded (for the first time!) by a special grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, we had a cast of 24 playing over 100 characters, an enormous set, thousands of costume pieces, and nine weeks of performances.

“We experienced an embarrassment of riches,” said Spiro Veloudos, who directed the piece, of the casting and rehearsal process. Spiro noted that he had been ruminating on directing the show(s) for almost twenty years before starting the process here. It was a powerful, relatable story; Associate Director Courtney O’Connor said, “as with any play, the strength of the story is in how we relate to it. Though the events take place in 1830’s England, parallels to our contemporary world are clear.” And it was just a huge undertaking for all of us in the Boston theater community. Cast member Will Lyman predicted just before the show opened that “Nick Nick will be a landmark in Boston theatre history.”

Needless to say, it was a big event.

And some of you wanted to see it all in one day.

We called this “running the Marathon,” because it involved seeing two three hour plays in one day. We scheduled the repertory so that you could in theory have a week or more in between seeing Part I of the show and Part II. But on five specific days throughout the run, the first part played in the afternoon and the second part in the evening so you could, if you desired, spend a day here at the Lyric with us and see it all in a day.

These days sold out unbelievably fast, and it wasn’t hard to see why: though it was a pretty hefty undertaking, absorbing and experiencing these shows all in one day was a mammoth experience. “Such a triumph,” one audience member remarked to me on their way out, “we’re so glad we did this.” The audience on those days became like a small family unto themselves. They laughed together, they cried together, there was such solidarity in the room.

photo of Brian Duddley drinking out of Nicholas Nickleby water bottle
…Nicholas Nickleby collectors items!

We thought it might be nice of us to provide water bottles for our intrepid marathon runners – because everyone knows it’s folly to run a marathon without staying hydrated! We tried to make those days as special as possible – and we knew we’d succeeded when, at the start of Part II on the first Marathon day, the audience broke into hoots and hollers, before the actors had even said a word. The show report for that evening stated, “There was applause for getting into place at the very top of the show for the narration and the audience loved it.  Pretty much the entire house was on its feet at the curtain call.”

The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby poster

Truthfully, though, whether you “ran the Nickleby marathon,” saw the shows weeks apart, or even just one of the two parts, we hope you look back on it fondly. We sure do.


The Lyric Top 40
A new feature on our blog that celebrates the large and the small, the obvious and the obscure, our very favorite things about The Lyric Stage Company of Boston, the things that make us uniquely Lyric. Check back for the next item on the countdown.