World premiere for Chesterfield Operatics

Chesterfield Operatic Society is to stage the world premiere of a new musical at the Pomegranate Theatre, Chesterfield, in November.


Based on the Charles Dickens novel Nicholas Nickleby, the musical was created by Derby-based author and composer Dave Culling.

The musical tells the story of the eponymous Nicholas who takes his family to London to seek assistance from his uncle after the death of her his financially replete father.

Taking an immediate dislike to his nephew, Uncle Ralph finds a position for Nicholas under the sadistic Mr Squeers and his interminable wife, owners of a boarding school in northern England. In the meantime, Ralph seeks to use Nicholas’s beautiful sister, Kate, as a ploy to influence his investors.

Nicholas flees the school with the crippled Smike, an orphan with no memories of his former life before he was brought to Dotheboys Hall. On their journey back to London they meet up with Vincent Crummles and his acting troupe, befriend Ralph’s good-hearted secretary Newman Noggs and ultimately rise over adversity.

Dave Culling has worked as a musical director and vocal coach in the amateur and professional theatre for 17 years and cited the novel as one of his favourites.

Said Dave: “It is a tale of hope and redemption set against a backdrop of many memorable characters.

“The idea to musicalise the novel came to me the moment I read it. I began to hear the melodies and saw the shape of the piece. The characters are colourful and vivid, the narrative strong and the music exactly what I had envisaged when I started writing it.

“I wrote a first draft of some of the script very quickly and workshopped it with some young people. ‘Town of Broken Dreams’ worked well as an opening number and I knew I was on to something. Derby LIVE Youth Theatre premiered a version with much more dialogue than I would have liked with sporadic songs.

“After my brother James died of leukaemia, I returned to Nicholas Nickleby and decided to radically rewrite it. Gone were pages of dialogue and I musicalised many sections of dialogue. Whole songs were rewritten and I developed the relationship of Nicholas and Smike even further.

“It is now a fully-fledged piece of brand new musical theatre and I am delighted to be bringing it to Chesterfield Operatic Society, confident that they will love Nicholas Nickleby as much as I enjoyed writing it.”

Early musical rehearsals were conducted by Dave before being taken over by the society’s musical director, Jon Davies, with the full production overseen by Carole Copeland and choreography by Alison Doram.

Society chairman Sarah Morrell said: “It has been a real privilege and pleasure to stage this new production and everyone is working extremely hard to ensure its success.”

The show runs from November 22 to 25, with a Saturday matinee. Tickets, £13 and £17, can be booked on 01246 345222 or