Full Synopsis

Full Synopsis

Act One

Once upon a time, in the not too distant Dickensian future, there lives a beautiful and cold-hearted woman called Estella Scrooge.  Estella is the brilliantly successful CEO of a Wall Street real estate, banking and medical insurance conglomerate called "Bleak House".

Her devoted assistant, Betty Cratchit, pleads with Estella for some medical help for her daughter Tiny Tammy who is critically ill, but Estella insists the dysfunctional Bleak House insurance plan should be sufficient for her.

Estella’s childhood friend, Philip Nickleby, owns a large property in her hometown of Pickwick, Ohio.  He has defaulted on his mortgage, and while Estella decides to handle the foreclosure personally, she vows to remain faithful to her ambitious career: "Never Look Down".

Philip Nickleby has transformed a decaying old art deco style hotel into the Harthouse, a sanctuary for the bereft, homeless and dispossessed: "Mail Call".   Major Bagstock, a destitute veteran, arrives at the Harthouse on Christmas Eve and is welcomed in by the existing residents: "Almost a Family".

Nickleby and his close circle of friends, the bellboy Dedlock, the chambermaid Dawkins, the receptionist Smike, the charitably-minded Pecksniff sisters, and the silent Molly, hear from Nickleby’s lawyer, Jasper Jaggers, that the Harthouse has been bought up by Bleak House and will be immediately re-possessed.  Nickleby swears he will never abandon the happy band of misfits he has adopted: "Not on My Watch".   

Estella Scrooge arrives at the Harthouse intent on getting Nickleby to sign away all his rights to the property, in exchange for a promise to develop the whole area for the benefit of the entire town: "Trickle Down". 

Nickleby refuses to sign and Estella storms out but a sudden freak blizzard forces her to return and take refuge in the Harthouse for the night.  Despite the open animosity of the chambermaid, Dawkins, fully expressed in "Barbie Doll", Nickleby and Smike offer Estella the honeymoon suite, a famously spooky room at the top of the hotel not normally in use, which she rather gracelessly accepts. 

Disturbed to find his old friend so lacking in sympathy and understanding, Nickleby faces her with the insufficiency of her outlook on life and warns there may be a price to pay: "Do You Believe". The idea is taken up by Smike and the Pecksniff Sisters as they sit around their Christmas tree and skeptically dismissed by Estella as she sits alone in the honeymoon suite.

Suddenly the lights flicker and the suite starts to spin as Estella’s adoptive aunt and one time boss, Marla Havisham, emerges through the wall in a cloud of smoke.  Estella is terrified and disbelieving in turns, but Marla explains that this was the room in which she was abandoned on her wedding night, now a portal for her visits to the real world from the afterlife.  She apologizes for bringing Estella up in such a heartless way and warns her she will be visited by three Spirits that very night: "Wall Street Baby Superstar".

Back in the lobby of the hotel, Nickleby decides to spend the night writing letters to prospective supporters to stop the closure of the Harthouse and protect Smike, Dawkins and all his other friends from the persecutions that have dogged their lives.  Left alone with the the mysterious and silent Molly, his oldest resident, Nickleby wonders how he can have let it all go so badly wrong: "Great Expectations".

At 1.00 am in the Honeymoon Suite, Estella is visited by Sissy Jupe, a Brit-rock, air-guitar- playing Spirit of Christmas Past who describes herself as a "Minor Character".  Sissy Jupe takes Estella back to her past, including her first ever meeting with Nickleby, then called Pip, a fondly remembered Christmas dinner at Pip’s family’s home: "An Art to Christmas", an increasingly distant relationship between them, and finally the night Estella finally broke up with Pip and moved with Marla Havisham to New York: "Gardens and Stars".

Back in the lobby, Smike says goodnight to Nickleby in his own special way: "It’s Okay With Me".  Deeply disturbed by her encounters with Marla Havisham and Sissy Jupe, Estella joins Nickleby in the lobby.  She is moved to see him steadfastly trying to save the Harthouse from demolishment, but they are still quite distant and awkward as they share their memories and regrets over a drink.  Estella returns to her room but not before Nickleby has inadvertently used his old pet name for her, and she for him.  He finally admits how deeply he still feels for her:  "Best and Worst of Times", a feeling Estella echoes on her return to the Honeymoon Suite and which is shared all around the Harthouse by the apprehensive and thoughtful residents.

Act Two

Estella’s second Spirit turns out to be the her very own distant ancestor, the founder of Bleak House, Ebenezer Scrooge, who announces himself as the Spirit of Christmas Present:  "It’s A Beautiful Night".  Ebenezer flies her swiftly across America to visit the Cratchit family, who are valiantly attempting to enjoy their Christmas despite Tammy’s obviously deteriorating condition: "Best and Worst of Times (Reprise)".  Estella is appalled to hear Betty describing her in the most unflattering terms and is even more disturbed when Ebenezer introduces her to two child spirits, Ignorance and Hunger and the millions of unhappy and neglected children they represent all over the earth.

Estella finds herself back in the lobby again, though she can’t work out how she got there.  Nickleby is still writing his letters and dreaming of an escape from his troubles. Estella starts to understand how deeply she feels for Nickleby and why she was driven to visit him and reawaken their relationship. He declares his constant and undying love for her, and she her increasing fascination and admiration for him, but Nickleby is confused and disappointed when, driven by her appointment with her third Spirit, Estella suddenly decide to return to her room: "Great Expectations (Reprise)".

Estella’s third Spirit is Melchisedech Merdle is the Spirit of Chritsmas Yet To Come. Merdle was a disgraced investment broker who cheated his clients out of all their money before killing himself.  He takes Estella on a tour of a mysterious and gothic graveyard where he shows her three graves, starting with his own. The second grave is Tiny Tammy’s, where her parents Betty and Bob are grieving her loss.  As they walk sadly off through the graveyard, Tiny Tammy makes a ghostly appearance, accusing Estella of cutting her life short: "Life".  The third grave is Estella’s own, where she grieves at her own empty life of self-aggrandizement and wasted opportunities.  She returns to her room, amazed and excited to be alive and transformed by her night with the Spirits. 

It’s Christmas morning at the Harthouse and presents are being exchanged between the residents: "An Art To Christmas".   Suddenly Estella bursts through the front door, laden with presents.  Nickleby and all the other residents, including the newly arrived Cratchit family, are astounded by Estella’s change of character even after she has tried to explain it to them: "Never Look Down (Reprise)".  

After an amazing and highly Dickensian revelation of secrets and mysterious twists in the plot, Estella finds that her true home is at the Harthouse with her new family: Almost a Family (Reprise).  As all the residents sit down to a gladsome Christmas dinner, Estella pledges herself to a changed life, the reformation of Bleak House, the restoration of the Harthouse and a life partnership with Nickleby.  When Nickleby asks her if she really wants to do all this, she replies "It’s A Far Far Better Thing".

In grateful thanks to Charles Dickens and to their faithful audience, the whole company of Estella Scrooge, A Christmas Carol with a Twist bid their farewells: "Harthouse (Bleak House Reprise)".