Review: Riveting 'To Kill a Mockingbird' Is a Must-See
Will Demers READ TIME: 2 MIN.
The troubled stage adaptation of Harper Lee's 1960 novel "To Kill a Mockingbird" has arrived at the Providence Performing Arts Center (PPAC) through February 11. Adapted by Aaron Sorkin (Oscar-winner for "The Social Network" and Emmy-winner for "The West Wing"), it ran into legal issues when headed to Broadway in 2018 when Lee's estate attempted to prevent the production with a lawsuit, claiming Sorkin deviated from Lee's conception of lawyer Atticus Finch, played by Richard Thomas in the current tour.
After an agreement was reached, the premiere on Broadway with Jeff Daniels opened on Broadway to mostly decent reviews. But some critics took issue with Sorkin's departure from aspects of Lee's book. Additionally, another adaptation by Christopher Sergel had been available for nearly fifty years, and Sorkin's production company (Atticus LLC) moved to shut down productions of that version appearing within 25 miles of the later production in major metropolitan cities.
Lee's novel centers on racial injustice and inequality in Depression-era Alabama. Its 1962 film version won Gregory Peck an Oscar for his towering performance of Finch. Also nominated for an Oscar was child actress Mary Badham who played Finch's tomboyish daughter Scout at the age of ten. Badham joined Thomas and the National Tour in March, 2022 as supporting character Mrs. Dubose
Thomas leads a fabulously talented cast under the direction of nine-time Tony nominee Bartlett B. Sher. (He won the award for his direction of Lincoln Center Theater's "South Pacific" in 2008.) Scout (Scout Backus) and Jem (Justin Mark) shine as Atticus's children, with the memorable Jacqueline Williams (Tony-nominated for "The Young Man from Alabama") as Calpurnia, and the amazing Yaegel T. Welch (reprising his Broadway role) as the accused Tom Robinson. Badham has a very funny turn as Mrs. Henry Dubose, and Steven Lee Johnson is exceptionally entertaining and funny as Dill Harris. In addition, Ted Koch will send chills up your spine as Bob Ewell, the man who whose daughter (played by Mayella Mariah Lee) has accused Tom Robinson of rape, and Jeff Still brings much gravitas and humor to Judge Taylor in what is essentially a courtroom-set drama.
Thomas brings a very touching and human edge to his portrayal as Finch. The veteran actor's presence is immensely welcome. In his adaptation, Sorkin bookends the novel's major elements with narration by Scout, and successfully captures the novel's humor and pathos. At nearly three hours (with intermission), this keeps the audience rapt. It is impossible to be restless with such powerful performances and storytelling.
"To Kill a Mockingbird" is running through February 11th at the Providence Performing Arts Center (PPAC) 220 Weybosset Street, Providence, Rhode Island 02903. For information or tickets call 401-421-2787 or visit www.ppacri.org.