When Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” was first published in 1960, it was an immediate sensation and even banned in many schools for its heavy use of racial epithets and the subject of rape. The novel, overturning the author’s expectations, went on to win The Pulitzer Prize and become the multiple Oscar-lauded 1962 movie starring Gregory Peck. Even today, the themes of the book, reworked into the hit Broadway adaptation by Aaron Sorkin and directed by Bartlett Sher, feel lamentably relevant, palpably unsettling.
Veteran actor, Richard Thomas (The Waltons, Ozark ) is Atticus Finch, the sometimes naively optimistic, small-town white lawyer who takes on the monumental task of defending an innocent black man accused of raping a white woman amid the dense ignorance and blind bigotry of the Jim Crow South in Depression-era Alabama. The story is told through the eyes of his tomboy daughter, Scout (Melanie Moore, Hello Dolly! Finding Neverland), her precocious older brother, Jem (Justin Mark, This Beautiful Future, In A Word) and their quirky friend “Dill” (Steven Lee Johnson – Uncle Vanya, A Midsummer Night’s Dream), based on Lee’s own friend, author Truman Capote.
“Even today, the themes of the book, reworked into the hit Broadway adaptation by Sorkin and directed by Bartlett Sher, feel lamentably relevant, palpably unsettling.”
Thomas, with flashes of Peck, gives a raw and honest performance — his integrity and faith in humanity both a beacon of hope, and an exasperating delusion. Jacqueline Williams (Head of Passes, The Young Man from Atlanta) steals the show as the simmering black housekeeper and surrogate mother who engages in her “passive aggressive” behavior until she can hold back no more and compels Atticus to stop his “climb into other people’s skin and walk around” attitude and examine the impact of his misguided faith in certain white folk instead. Yaegel T. Welch is heart wrenching as the accused, Tom Robinson; and Arianna Gayle Stucki, making her stunning debut, displays her Juilliard-trained acting chops as the tormented, purported victim, Mayella Ewell. Sher’s well paced direction and Sorkin’s dynamic writing are a boon for any cast, and this production at the Pantages is captivating throughout its almost two and a half hour runtime. As an added treat, Mary Badham, who was nominated for an Oscar for playing Scout in the landmark movie, brings some deliciously wicked humor as cantankerous neighbor, Mrs. Henry Dubose.
— Victor Riobo
“To Kill a Mockingbird” plays at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre through November 27th. Tickets and more information HERE. At the Segerstrom Center for the Arts from December 27, 2022 – January 8, 2023.