Davy Copperfield—a Hero from the Past for Today

Monthly installments of Charles Dickens’s books were the closest thing to Netflix in the nineteenth century. Families across the English-speaking world sat up after supper beside their fireplaces to read aloud the latest chapter of David Copperfield (or any of the superstar author’s 14 other novels). Charles Dickens’s stories made them laugh, cry, and get mad at the injustices of their world. And his characters felt so real that everyone believed they knew a cranky aunt like Betsey Trotwood or a villain like Mr. Murdstone. Some readers even worried about Dickens’s child characters to the point of writing letters to the author begging him to make a happy ending for their favorite.

In the case of the musical adaptation you are about to see of the first ten years of David Copperfield’s life story,  let me assure you that there is a very happy ending. True, there are hardships along Davy’s way just as there were hardships in his creator’s early life. Both Davy and Dickens felt under-appreciated by their families. Both were denied schooling and sent out as boys to earn money, working in factories. And both suffered the humiliation of seeing a father-figure imprisoned for falling into debt.  Both the character Davy and the man who invented him not only survived these set-backs but succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. How? Because they were resilient. When life dealt them a blow, they rose up, and bravely chose to take on a new day.

When Tim and I began our research for this re-visioning of a great classic, we did workshops with elementary school students at The Lucy School in Frederick, MD. We learned a lot from K – 5th graders about what connects contemporary kids to David Copperfield. They share Davy’s joy in imaginative play, his love of books, and his inherent sense of fairness. Like Davy, many of them belong to blended families and know that their role models can be teachers and friends as well as family members. And most of all, the students at The Lucy School showed us how empowering it is for them to visualize how –with enough determination– a young person could walk 75 miles towards a faint hope; how he could outrun his enemies, put his hard-won knowledge to good use, and outwit a bunch of bullies in order, at long last, to find a good home. 

We hope Davy Copperfield makes you laugh, cry and get mad at the injustices of your world! That’s all the most famous novelist of the nineteenth century would have wanted.

– Janet Stanford, Playwright/Director Dickens’s Davy Copperfield

Dickens’s Davy Copperfield plays from February 16 to March 31 in the Lerner Family Theatre

Best for ages 6+

Performed in repertory with Anatole: Mouse Magnifique 

Get tickets here!

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