“All rise” for the stunning production of “To Kill A Mockingbird”, Aaron Sorkin’s adaptation of Harper Lee’s groundbreaking novel now playing at the Hollywood Pantages. The play opened originally on Broadway in 2018 and, after closing in January 2022, is now running in the West End in London and on this national tour starring Richard Thomas in the leading role of Atticus Finch.
As in the famous film starring Gregory Peck, and the book, published in 1960, the play takes place in the small town of Maycomb, Alabama, where a widower laywer named Atticus Finch has reluctantly agreed to represent a poor, black man falsely accused of raping a young white woman. Atticus is raising two young children, Scout and Jem, with the help of their black housekeeper and nanny, Calpurnia. Atticus knows his client, Tom Robinson, is innocent and, perhaps naively, believes that a jury will make the right decision in spite of their prejudices.
Sorkin has the young protagonists, Scout, Jem and their visiting friend, Dill, narrate the story, speaking directly to the audience throughout. It adds a theatricality that was interesting and effective. It invites the audience into the story and challenges us to take on the injustice being laid out before us. There’s a moment when Richard Thomas as Atticus speaks to the audience as if we are the jury and implores us to “begin with justice.” It’s a powerful moment and one that Thomas delivers with great passion. He is beautifully suited to this role, bringing a southern gentleman’s dignity and integrity to Atticus along with a deeply felt belief in justice. He has beautiful chemistry with Melanie Moore as Scout. Their scenes together are sweet, funny and poignant. Justin Mark is an earnest Jem Finch, struggling to be seen by his father as the young man he is becoming. The role of Dill is more fleshed out in Sorkin’s play and Steven Lee Johnson hits all the right comedic notes and gives him an endearing tenderness.
The entire cast is of the highest caliber, with standout performances by Jacqueline Williams, deeply moving as Calpurnia, and Yaegel T. Welch who delivers a staggering performance as falsely accused Tom Robinson. A lovely, full-circle moment has the original Scout from the film, Mary Badham, playing the curmudgeon, racist neighbor, Mrs. Dubose.
Sorkin’s play remains true to the book and the characters with the difficult moments brought into sharper relief – as with the very real threat of the local KKK coming to call, the abuse that the accuser is being subjected to by her father and the very real struggle Atticus has with his own moral compass. Sixty years later, the story still has things to teach us and Sorkin’s play reminds us that we must not look away.
To Kill A Mockingbird runs through November 27 at Hollywood Pantages Theatre located at 6233 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Parental Advisory: Children ages 12 and up. Children under 5 will not be admitted to the theatre. Tickets start at $39. Online: BroadwayInHollywood.com or Ticketmaster.com Phone: 1-800-982-2787 In Person: Hollywood Pantages Box Office. The show will travel next to Costa Mesa December 27, 2022 – January 8, 2023 at Segerstrom Center for the Arts 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa, CA, 92626. Tickets start at $29. www.SCFTA.org Phone: 1-714-556-2787