The words “all rise” end the Broadway production of To Kill a Mockingbird, and the audience obliges with a rapturous standing ovation. Aaron Sorkin’s magnificent adaptation of Harper Lee’s 1960 novel brings a tour de force to the Shubert Theatre stage, tackling the issue of racial prejudice in 1930s small-town Alabama. It certainly rings true in today’s political world.
Jeff Daniels gives a wonderful portrayal of Atticus Finch, the country lawyer who is chosen to defend a Black man, Tom Robinson (Gbenga Akinnagbe), who is accused of raping a white woman. He displays the warmth, conviction, and moral strength the role requires. The narrators are adults playing children. Celia Keenan Bolger is on target in the demanding role of Scout, Atticus’ daughter. She, along with Will Pullen as Scout’s older brother, Jem, and Gideon Glick as their friend Dill (a character based on the late Truman Capote, Harper Lee’s childhood friend) are believable and help tie the story line together.
Director Bartlett Sher acts as an orchestra leader tying the cast of 24 into an engrossing whole. Using two simple sets—the courtroom and the front porch of Atticus’ home, where he lives with Scout and Jem—he intertwines the threats and elements of a complicated story to hold the audience’s interest.
The advertisements for To Kill a Mockingbird poignantly quote President Barack Obama’s farewell address from January 2017, when he cited the novel: “If our democracy is to work the way it should in this increasingly diverse nation, then each one of us needs to try to heed the advice of a great character in American fiction: Atticus Finch, who said, ‘You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view. Until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.’”
No doubt, To Kill a Mockingbird is highly recommended for the entire family so we can raise our moral consciousness to fight racism, anti-Semitism, and prejudice.