Richard and I saw *To Kill a Mockingbird* on Broadway on 11/10/18. This is a new adaptation of the Harper Lee book, written by Aaron Sorkin (the writer of *The American President,* *The West Wing,* *The Social Network,* and many other great things). It was directed by Bartlett She (who directed many shows we’ve seen over the last few years, including *South Pacific,* *The King and I,* *Oslo,* and *My Fair Lady*) and starring Jeff Daniels as Atticus Finch (we know him from *Terms of Endearment,* *The Purple Rose of Cairo,* *The Hours,* *Pleasantville,* and - - ahem - - *Dumb and Dumber* and its sequel *Dumb and Dumber To*). A starry creative team! We had our hopes up and we were not disappointed.
Can a show be both gentle and overwhelming? Was it overwhelming in its gentleness? The show had an easy flow, created both by the writer and the director, and while much of the time the situation was tense, the overall tone was one of warmth. My experience was helped greatly by the fact that I didn’t remember the story! I remember the ending, but didn’t remember the outcome of the trail, the centerpiece of the story (it’s been 35 years since I’ve read the book and over 10 years since I’ve seen the movie). That made the play more exciting.
I’m generally against using a lot of music in a play, but the music was used very thoughtfully. It helped a lot that the musicians were live onstage (an organist on the right and a guitarist on the left) and even more that the score was written by the great Adam Guetel. I expect him to get a Tony nomination!
Jeff Daniels was extraordinary, he had the easy grace and moral rectitude needed for the role. Best of all, he held the stage when it was his but shared the stage with the other actors. LaTanya Richardson Jackson played the important role of Calpurnia. She made the most of her short but potent moments, she was wonderful.
There are three children at the center of the story, Atticus’s son and daughter and their friend Dill. Those roles were cast with adult actors: Celia Keenan-Bolger (40) as Scout, Will Pullen (27) as Jem, and Gideon Glick (29) as Dill. All three were extraordinary - - they had a childlike quality without making a big deal about it.
The most intense scene in the play was a short scene in the second act between “The Town Drunk” (played by Neal Huff) and Dill. These are secondary characters, and a scene that on the surface seems to be between the other scenes, nothing happens to move the plot forward. But the issues being discussed were so searing and the two characters related to each other with such compassion, it was shocking in its quiet intensity.
Most of all, seeing the play made me want to read the book again.