GREAT EXPECTATIONS, the classic Charles Dickens’ novel, has now been successfully transformed into a passionate and vibrant musical. The rich score brings to life the story of a prodigal young man named Pip and his journey of obsession, disillusionment, and redemption. Dickens’ colorful characters, the scheming Miss Havisham, the nurturing Joe, the abusive Mrs. Joe, and the mysterious convict, Magwitch, all spring to life and influence Pip’s pursuit of his humanity, and the quest for the illusive love of his life, the beautiful Estella.
When we first meet Pip, he has returned from Cairo, where he has worked in partnership with his devoted friend, Herbert Pocket, for eleven long years. He is drawn to the crumbling mansion, Satis House, where he came to know the strange inhabitants that so altered his life. Pip becomes engulfed by the voices in his head that convince him to relive the past in order to find personal peace, especially with the unrequited love for his heart’s desire, Estella Havisham. The ghostly voices sing WELCOME HOME.
Pip is suddenly propelled back into his childhood, into his first life-altering moment where he is accosted by a terrifying escaped convict, Magwitch, in the graveyard of a small church. Pip has been visiting the graves of his parents. The convict, who is in leg-irons, demands that Pip get food and a file on penalty of an excruciating death. Pip returns to his home to steal the items for Magwitch where he is met by an almost equally terrifying Mrs. Joe, his older sister. Both characters sing DO AS I SAY.
Born into poverty, Pip’s parents died when he was a baby. His rearing “by hand” by his eldest sister and the only surviving family member, is abusive. His sister married the local blacksmith, the gentle Joe Gargery, and became “Mrs. Joe” from that day forward. Joe is Pip’s loving surrogate father, but cannot always protect Pip from the wrath of Mrs. Joe’s “rampages”. Joe and Pip sing EVER THE BEST OF FRIENDS.
Weighing the probable beating he’ll receive from Mrs. Joe for stealing, with the certain horrible death by Magwitch if he doesn’t, Pip steals the food and file. During his return to the church, Pip runs into another convict with a bloody gash across his face. This convict flees and Pip continues on to meet Magwitch in the graveyard. Magwitch eats ravenously, then begins to file the leg-irons, but not before he thanks Pip. Pip excuses himself and runs home.
The next, and most definitive moment in Pip’s life is arranged by his opportunistic Uncle Pumblechook. It seems that a very rich woman near the town, Miss Havisham, has a fancy to have a young boy companion and Pumblechook believes that Pip’s and his own fortunes may be made by this arrangement. Mrs. Joe also sees this as an “enriching” opportunity. So Pip is scrubbed raw, dressed in his best clothes, and sent to spend the day with Miss Havisham, the day, which will change Pip’s life forever. For it is at Miss Havisham’s huge, crumbling manor house, Satis House, where he first meets the beautiful, haughty, young Estella.
The mansion is dark and eerie and Miss Havisham is dressed in an ancient yellowed wedding gown. Young Estella is her adopted child and makes malicious fun of Pip’s thick boots and country ways. Pip is humiliated by the experience, but is hopelessly besotted by the young Estella. Miss Havisham had been jilted at the altar when she was a proud young girl and has stopped all time in her life. She has always worn her deteriorating wedding clothes, has had the curtains drawn, and stopped all clocks at 8:40, the time when she received the infamous note that carried the message of her groom’s rejection. She is raising Estella to wreak revenge on the male sex and sings PLAY.
Pip attends Miss Havisham for a year, during which he is constantly teased by Estella. Finally the day comes when his is apprenticed to Joe, and Estella is sent to France to be “educated for a lady”.
The next years are miserable for Pip. He has dreams of becoming a gentleman and aspires to be worthy of Estella’s affections, but he is now Joe’s apprentice, and seemingly destined to be a blacksmith. Mrs. Joe has a stroke and is cared for by a sweet young friend, Biddy, who has taught Pip to read and write and who has secretly loved him throughout their childhood. She sings of her happiness and content in THE WORLD TO ME.
The third definitive point in Pip’s life occurs when he is informed by a lawyer from London, Mr. Jaggers, that he has a secret patron, about whom he must never inquire, and is to be educated to become a gentleman in the song NO LESS, NO MORE.
Pip is a man of great expectations. He sings “Great Expectations” with the ensemble that cynically respond with their good fortune at the expense of Pip’s good fortune. He bids goodbye to his dear friends, Joe and Biddy and joyously sings “Everything I Wanted” on his trip to London. A diverse group of Londoners welcome Pip with a reprise of “Great Expectations”. GREAT EXPECTATIONS/EVERYTHING I WANTED
Once in London, he reacquaints himself with the powerful and enigmatic lawyer, Mr. Jaggers, who specializes as a defense lawyer for the lower classes. He meets Mr. Jaggers clerk, Wemmick, with whom he becomes friends, and Herbert Pocket, his future best friend.
Herbert begins a story that will intrigue and then haunt Pip throughout the story. There is a strange connection between many of Pip’s acquaintances including Miss Havisham, who as a young girl in her wedding clothes, who sings HER WEDDING DAY. This song illustrates Herbert’s knowledge of the family history and especially Miss Havisham’s breakdown.
Through the rest of the fascinating story, we witness Pip’s corruption of spirit by the trappings of a gentleman’s life, his embarrassment of Joe and his former life, his overspending of his allowance, and his participation in the frivolous social circles of the upper class. Scenes of the changing of his values are introduced by The Making of a Gentleman.
Mrs. Joe dies, necessitating a visit by Pip to his past home. While attending the funeral service, Pip hears the haunting call of Miss Havisham’s voice and is once again drawn to Satis House. Estella has returned, a dazzling beauty and with whom Pip falls hopelessly in love while Miss Havisham sings LOVE HER. Unfortunately, Estella has been raised by Miss Havisham to wreak out vengeance against all men in retribution for being jilted. She is to carry out Miss Havisham’s mission and that is her purpose in life. Pip is continually crushed by Estella; however, Estella is not a cruel person, but unable to feel emotion. She warns Pip that she will deceive others to carry out Miss Havisham’s will, but she will not deceive him in the song I HAVE A HEART. Pip holds onto that crumb of hope until one fateful night.
The next definitive moment occurs on a stormy night when a mysterious caller comes to Pip’s apartment. It is Magwitch who reveals that he is Pip’s patron. Pip is devastated. He had always assumed his patron to be Miss Havisham, who had also lead him to believe this as well. Pip’s source of income will become known and he will be shunned by poliet society. And, most importantly, he knows he can never win the love of Estella. The first act ends with an angry and desolate Pip singing MUSTN’T PANIC.
Act two begins with Pip returning to Satis House to confront his tormentor, Miss Havisham and her creation of revenge, Estella. They sing a trio, LOVE BY DEFINITION.
Estella confesses to Pip and Miss Havisham that she is “weary of this life” and plans to marry Drummle, Pip’s wealthy boorish classmate, dashing his hopes forever, and crushing Miss Havisham's plans for Estella. Pip’s passionate last words, for the first time, unnerve Estella and she responds with the song I COULD WALK AWAY after he walks out.
Adding to the story is the mystery of who is Estella and where did she come from when Miss Havisham adopted her. There are clues, one of which is Jaggers maid Molly, a once beautiful gypsy with a volatile temper, “a wild beast, tamed”. She was accused of killing a woman and her own baby daughter. Jealousy was the motive for the first crime, but the child was never found. Molly was successfully defended and by Jaggers and then became his maid. She is now a shy, if not cowering middle-aged woman.
Magwitch had been sent to Australia for his crimes and was warned that if he returned to England and was apprehended, he would be sentenced to death. Wemmick warns Pip that he must get Magwitch out of the country as Compeyson knows of his return and will seek revenge by reporting him to the police. Magwitch gave Compeyson, the bloody wound many years before when Pip fist saw them both. They are bitter enemies from past years of crime. Compeyson is revealed when he sings BACK TO BLACK with the street denizens he pays to spy on Pip.
Pip is convinced that Jaggers has all the answers and confronts him about all the connections of the characters. Jaggers responds with "Put the Case." We learn that Estella is the daughter of Molly by Magwitch. Miss Havisham wanted to adopt a daughter, so Molly gave up her child. Magwitch, bereft at the supposed murder of his child by Molly, attached himself to Pip those many years ago when Pip returned with food and a file to aid in his escape. Sentenced to Australia for his crimes, Magwitch worked ferociously to make a fortune to help Pip become a gentleman, a surrogate son. Magwitch has put himself in the ultimate jeopardy by returning to see the fruit of his labors. "Put the Case" is also an indictment of the upper class who turn their backs on the poor and helpless. Pip understands that these revelations would ruin Estella and must be kept secret for her sake. PUT THE CASE
Pip pays one last visit to Miss Havisham, during which she begs for his forgiveness. He tells her that there is nothing to forgive, but she must earn Estella’s forgiveness. Pip also requests that she pay for Herbert’s partnership into a firm where has very little hope of achieving advancement. There is nothing Pip requests for himself. Seeing Pip so deeply saddened, yet selfless, Miss Havisham sings WHAT HAVE I DONE, a lament of what was, is, and should have been. Pip leaves her and returns to London.
With time, Pip begins to become fond of Magwitch and realizes that he must get Magwitch safely out of England. He and Herbert devise an escape plan. Having no reason to stay in London and feeling responsible for him, Pip decides to go abroad with Magwitch. They are to secretly board a steamer ship to Hamburg after the ship is en route far down the Thames River from London. They are good rowers and can pull a small boat alongside the steamer where Pip and Magwitch can be taken aboard. As the steamer approaches and Pip and Herbert row out, and an excited Magwitch sings a rousing song of his future with Pip, DEAR BOY.
En route, a police boat appears from nowhere with Compeyson aboard. Magwitch leaps at Compeyson and they tumble into the water in front of the on-coming steamer. Pip dives into the water to rescue Magwitch. Compeyson is killed, but Magwitch, though critically injured, survives.
Magwitch is sentenced to death, but dies before his execution can be carried out. Magwitch’s last farewell softly reprises his DEAR BOY (REPRISE).
All of the money that was to be given to Pip was lost in the Thames, so Pip is penniless. Herbert has “suddenly” been elevated to a position as a partner in Cairo and he and his wife, Clara, must leave immediately. They beg Pip to go with them. Pip says he will consider their offer, but wishes to stay in London pay off his heavy debts.
Pip becomes deathly ill. In his delirium he hears the voices of bill collectors and familiar voices, and he awakens to the loving care of Joe and Biddy. Pip sobs in shame while Joe consoles him. They have news that Miss Havisham has died. They also break the news that they are married. Biddy confides to Pip that Joe has paid off Pip’s debts. Pip, though eternally grateful, has no desire to return to the forge and is ashamed of his behavior towards his friends while caught up in his "great expectations". He decides to take Hebert up on his offer and sets off for Cairo where he stays for eleven years. His time away takes place during the song I TRUST MY HEART.
Pip returns to England and we find him back where we first saw him, by Satis House. Suddenly a young boy dashes out from the house nearly running into Pip. Having excused himself, the young boy tells of coming to keep a woman company. His name is Pip, being the son of Joe and Biddy, and having been named for his “Uncle” Pip who is away in Cairo. The adult Pip tells the young boy to hurry home and announce to his wonderful mother and father that “Uncle Pip” has returned. Young Pip joyously runs off to tell his parents.
By the gate stands an older, wiser Estella. She is a widow and, since her husband had gambled away their fortunes, is back at Satis House. She only asks for forgiveness and friendship. They sing the duet THIS OLD HOUSE.
As the mists settle around them, Pip takes Estella’s hand and agrees that they must, at the very least, be friends. The ghosts of the past reprise WELCOME HOME.
Pip: Our protagonist, a young man who is born to a life of the working class and dreams of becoming a gentleman. Through an anonymous benefactor, Pip is given the opportunity to become a gentleman and win the affections of the wealthy young lady of his dreams, Estella Havisham.
Estella: The beautiful young woman of Pip’s dreams. She has been raised to wreak out vengeance against all men and cannot comprehend love.
Miss Havisham: The adoptive mother of Estella, Miss Havisham lives in a huge decaying manor home in seclusion. She was jilted as a young bride and still wears her bridal gown and surrounds herself with the remnants of the long-ago wedding. She has raised Estella to he heartless and to be her instrument of revenge on all men.
Joe: The village blacksmith, Joe is Pip’s loving father-figure. Since Pip’s parents died when he was a child, Joe and his wife, Pip’s eldest sister, have raised him.
Mrs. Joe: Pip’s sister, who Joe reminds Pip was once “a fine figure of a woman”, is a harsh woman who physically and emotionally abuses Pip.
Biddy: Pip’s childhood friend, Biddy is plain but wise, and tries to guide Pip with her devotion and compassion.
Magwitch: Pip first meets Magwitch who is an escaped convict. He frightens Pip into stealing food and a file from home. Later, he reenters the story and becomes Pip’s good friend.
Jaggers: The ubiquitous lawyer who seems to know all of the characters involved in the story and the skeletons in their closets.
Herbert: Pip’s steadfast friend and roommate, Herbert helps Pip with the finer points of becoming a gentleman and through the roughest part off Pip’s life.
Wemmick: The idiosyncratic clerk to Jaggers, Wemmick also befriends Pip. His motto is to always maintain “portable property”.
Pumblechook:Mrs. Joe’s self-aggrandizing uncle who is always on the lookout for monetary and influential gain.
Compeyson: The true villain of the story, Compeyson was once an inmate and co-conspirator of Magwitch, who has now become his mortal enemy.
Drummle: A spoiled young aristocrat and classmate of Pip’s, Drummle is everything a gentleman shouldn’t be and is Pip’s rival for Estella.
Startop: Another classmate of Pip’s, Startop is a good-natured, decent fellow, and is part of the gentleman’s club, The Finches of the Grove, to which Pip, Herbert and Drummle belong.
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