Based on the Smike Libretto published by Music Sales, written by Simon May, Roger
Holman and Clive Barnett.
With author’s notes by Simon May dated 20th January 2010.
ACT ONE scene 1. Present day classroom
During the Overture we see a modern classroom with one boy sitting alone at his desk.
(Author’s note: In the original version of Smike the modern day Smike is called Smeeton,
but in one recent production his name was changed to Mike which is more recognizable
and only one letter away from Smike!)
The classroom fills up with other students who treat Mike / Smeeton with contempt
and a bullying attitude.
In some productions we see overhead screen showing past scenes of Mike with his parents
and a newspaper/internet photo of a car crash. Headline reads “Boy orphaned in tragic
car crash. Both parents die in collision.”
Song 1: Overture / The Daily Test
The Head teacher arrives accompanied by the Head of Drama teacher Miss Grant. He
reads out a ridiculous set of questions to which the students write answers on their
test papers. (Author’s note: The point about the Daily Test being resented by the
students is just as relevant today as it was when the musical was first performed
in 1973. We live in an age of Ofsted targets and constant evaluation of student
performance which is just as tiresome as was repetitive learning by heart in earlier
Song 2: Doing Things By Numbers The students express their dissatisfaction with
the school and their lives where everything is centred around ticking boxes and doing
things by numbers.
As the Test is handed back for scrutiny by the Head Teacher and Miss Grant, Mr. Nicholls
the new English teacher arrives and is introduced by the Head to the class. Before
leaving, the Head picks on Mike for not “ruling off” at the bottom of his test paper
and gives him a boring and taxing punishment, much to the amusement of his classmates.
Whilst Mr. Nicholls is taken out of the classroom to collect the textbooks for his
lesson from Miss Grant, the class picks on Mike and begins taunting him and pushing
Mr. Nicholls returns and reprimands the bullies. He has quickly identified Mike
as a “victim” and shows his empathy and support for him in this opening scene.
Books are passed out, and when the students see they are going to be reading Charles
Dickens they are not happy. Nicholls pays no attention to their complaining. Instead,
he tells them about the story of Nicholas Nickleby which is about a young man who
loses his father and has to fend for himself. In the first part of the story he is
sent by his uncle to teach in a terrible school run by a mean schoolmaster named
Mr. Squeers who beats the students every day.
The students don’t want to read about Dotheboys Hall. Their own school is bad enough.
Song 3: Here I Am
Mr. Nicholls wins the class over with a lively song inviting them to join in and
embrace his project.
The Headmaster and Miss Grant enter drawn by the commotion in the classroom. They
are annoyed to learn that Nicholls has asked the boys to sing in an effort to help
their learning. Nicholls explains that he was just about to make Nicholas Nickleby
into a musical and was just about to give out parts. This further upsets Miss Grant
who, as the Drama mistress, doesn't believe that students should express themselves
and enjoy learning. Nicholls does not understand this mentality. It seems as if Nicholls'
only option is to give up. However he quickly tricks the Headmaster into playing
the part of Squeers (the Headmaster of the school) and convinces Miss Grant to play
the part of the love interest, Fanny Squeers.
Song 4: Stop and Just Think Who You Could Be
At the end of ‘Stop and Just Think Who You Could Be’ the role of downtrodden Smike
has to be decided. The Kids pick on Mike: “Mike, Mike, Mike, Smike, Smike!”