Unlike any adaptation of Charles Dickens' Great Expectations you may have seen.


Brief Synopsis

What's the word on the street?


In 1830's London, papermongers chase ha'pennies by hawking "broadsides" -- the pulp fiction of the day -- outrageous tabloids of melodrama and romance, murder and scandal.

One extraordinary night, two competing papermongers use a pastiche of broadsides both old and new to improvise the saga of an orphan girl whose life is almost destroyed by "great expectations" of status, fortune and love - a tale that, we discover in a last-minute twist, has inspired a young writer named Charley Dickens.


A longer synopsis is available below.


Sample Broadsides

"Orphan in the Graveyard!" (See illustration)


"Convict on the Run!" (See illustration)


Development History


EXPECTATIONS was selected to participate in the 2004 ASCAP/DISNEY Musical Theatre Workshop by Michael Kerker, ASCAP Director of Musical Theatre, with the workshop directed by Stephen Schwartz.

Through that experience I met the wonderful director Randy Brenner, with whom I have collaborated for several fruitful years of revisions.


Most recently, the show was read at The Coronet Theatre in Los Angeles.


Here is the full script in MS Word doc format.  I can provide the file in other formats upon request.


Note:  EXPECTATIONS is protected by copyright.  Public performance is subject to permission and royalty.  Contact the author (see below) for more information.



Demo songs

Below are seventeen song demos.  Click on the "mp3" file to listen.


For a brief taste, you can listen to just the seven song titles in bold text.


For a glance at the score, you can click on the "pdf" file to see excerpts.


Song Script pg MP3 PDF


Opening Number: By My Word! I - 1 mp3  
First Broadside: Pip in the Graveyard I - 8 mp3  
Second Broadside: Convict on the Run I - 15 mp3  
How to be a Midwife I - 22 mp3  
Better World I - 25 mp3  
Once Kind Twice Cold I - 33


Hold! I - 37 mp3  
There's a Home I - 42 mp3 pdf
Haven't Danced Yet I - 46 mp3 pdf
This is the Start I - 57 mp3  
Act I Finale: The Story You Tell I - 63 mp3  


Act II Opening Nbr: Haven't You Heard? II - 1 mp3 pdf
Waiting, Waiting II - 9 mp3 pdf
Anyone But You II - 21


Everything Been Done To Me II - 28 mp3  
Our Story Ours II - 38 mp3  
Yet Another Morning  and
Finale: The Stories We Tell
II - 43 mp3 pdf




Cast and Set


Minimum cast is Seven Women, Five Men.

If a larger cast is desired, without doubling, the cast of named roles expands to Nine Women, Nine Men.  Additional crowd members and passers-by are optional.

The show is flexible in its scale of production. While the tale told is epic, the way it is told invites intimacy and an imaginative minimalism.


Longer Synopsis



London, 1830. The bustling city is lit with gas. Orphans wander the streets without hope. Working people, seeking escape from their dreary daily lives, gather around the PAPERMONGERS to hear the latest "broadsides."

Broadsides -- the tabloids of the era -- sell news of murders and romances, scandals and humor, all liberally embellished by a fertile imagination. A crowd gathers as fierce competition between two Papermongers -- one touting a "Poor Orphan In The Graveyard!" and the other a "Convict On The Run!" -- creates a new fable, not of an orphan boy, but of an orphan girl, who becomes...

But wait! Let the competing Papermongers tell the story with an improvised pastiche of broadsides both old and new. And let the street people of London transform themselves into the characters of the story.

A homeless female street waif claims our attention as we are taken to...

... a lonely churchyard, where 7-year-old PIP meets and befriends a pregnant CONVICT, escaped from a nearby prison. Pip races home for food, and is abused by her cold-hearted older SISTER, who intends to send Pip to work as a maid at the nearby castle. Despite Pip's attempts to help her, the Convict is captured and transported to Australia.

Pip is a virtual slave at the castle, where she meets STEPHEN, the haughty, lonely ward of the household, and LORD GAYLE, the spiteful, wheelchair-bound master. As the years pass, Pip and Stephen become friends in mutual loneliness, playing in secret until caught by Lord Gayle and Pip is fired.

When she is 18, Pip receives an unexpected visit from MATTHEWS, Lord Gayle's attorney, who announces she is heir to the fortune of a secret benefactor. She will be transformed, elevated to the finest circles of society. Who knows what the future holds for her?



The Papermongers do! For now all of London is teeming with quickly-printed, contradictory broadsides about the orphan Pip -- she's a "hit" on every street corner! But amid the commotion, "our" Papermongers and street people continue the "true" story of Pip...

Pip makes her society debut at Lord Gayle's castle. Stephen has become a wealthy, genteel cad. He admits that when they were children, Pip was the only person who made his life bearable, but he warns her against losing her heart to him, for he has none to give in return. Pip flees her debut, shattered by such a cold rebuke of her offered love.

A startling visitor appears at Pip's door -- the Convict, returned to England, who reveals herself as Pip's secret benefactor. To repay Pip's kindness, she became a prostitute, scrimping and saving every penny to buy a better life for the caring child who had befriended her so many years ago.

Pip angrily confronts Lord Gayle, who had coolly encouraged her to believe that he was her patron. The Convict comes to the castle and is revealed as Stephen's birth mother. To his horror, he learns that he is the bastard of a convict whore, adopted as a baby by Lord Gayle. Stephen repudiates the deceitful Lord Gayle who, humiliated and despairing, sets the castle ablaze and dies in the fire.

Their wealth and social status now equal, Pip and Stephen have no great expectations left, only a small and simple one -- to live out their own story in the real world.

As the Papermongers clean up their broadsides and the street crowd disperses, we discover that the young nineteen-year-old who played Stephen in the tale has been inspired by the evening's experience to pursue a literary life. His name? Charley Dickens.

#  #  #



Author Bio


(Book, Music and Lyrics)

Born and raised in Ohio, David Schroeder graduated magna cum laude from Yale University in 1977 with a B.A. in music composition, studying with Jonathan Kramer and David Mott. His original musical comedy adaptation of James Thurber's The Thirteen Clocks was produced at Yale in 1978.

Throughout the 1980s, Schroeder designed and programmed home computer games for both the popular Apple II and Atari 400-800 systems which were produced and sold nationwide (and ripped off in Hong Kong!) Two of his titles made industry best-seller lists, as well as a compilation of "All-Time Best 100 Home Computer Games" in the mid-80's.

At the same time, he continued to pursue his avocation by contributing musical parodies and comedy broadcast over National Public Radio, including the programs All Things Considered and Morning Edition. His award-winning novelty song, I'm Looking for a Sex Partner, was distributed by Azra Records in 1987.

As a designer and program manager for Microsoft Corporation in the early 1990s, Schroeder was awarded a U.S. Patent (No. 5,481,667) for "Cue Cards" -- a computer-based tutorial system used in many Microsoft products.

After contributing songs to a local production of Cinderella -- The Real True Story, Schroeder was motivated to concentrate on his passion for music, and created the book, music and lyrics for his first show.

ALKMENA, an authorized adaptation of the play Amphitryon 38 by Jean Giraudoux, has had a lengthy and successful history. First produced in 1998 by Bare Boards & Passion in Port Townsend, it was performed in concert two years later by the Peninsula Chamber Singers of Port Angeles, Washington. Two additional productions followed: by the Port Townsend High School Players and the Changing Scenes Theatre Northwest of Bremerton, Washington.

The show was a semi-finalist for The Stanley Drama Award in 2000, and a Finalist at the Stages 2000 Festival, New Tuners Theatre, Chicago. It received Honorable Mentions at the McLaren Memorial Comedy Playwriting Competition two years in a row (1999 and 2000).

Schroeder "expects" to follow that success with his current project, EXPECTATIONS, an original show freely adapted from Charles Dickens' novel, Great Expectations, for which Schroeder wrote the book, music and lyrics.

In 2004, EXPECTATIONS was honored by being selected to participate in the annual ASCAP Foundation / Disney Musical Theatre Workshop (Artistic Director, Stephen Schwartz).

A reading of the full work was presented at Coronet Theatre, Los Angeles, in 2006, directed by Randy Brenner.

A CD of songs from the score was recorded in Los Angeles in 2008 by a cast of Actors Equity members.

Over the past ten years, Schroeder has been writing musical parodies published by The Door, a national Christian humor magazine. He has collected classic radio programs since college, and annually produces a local show called A Golden Age Radio Christmas, a mock broadcast of radio comedy and holiday song.

He and his wife, author Margaret D. McGee, live in Port Townsend, Washington.

He is a member of The Dramatists Guild.


© 2000 - 2009 by David H. Schroeder

500 Arabian Lane, Port Townsend, WA  98368