To Kill a Mockingbird at the Orpheum Theater in Memphis

This is the 1930s in Alabama. A black man is on trial for raping a white woman. A white lawyer defended him before a courtroom full of white jurors. The show promotes racial injustice, poverty, and is a coming-of-age story. You probably know this story.This is Harper Lee’s to kill a robin.

This 1960 novel won a Pulitzer Prize, was widely read in schools, used to teach history, and is still known today as a classic of American literature. The story follows Scott, the youngest daughter of Atticus Finch, a white layman determined to rescue a black man from the electric chair. Set in 1930s Alabama, Tom Robinson is falsely accused of raping a white woman and confronts a bigoted town convinced of his guilt. It’s a touching story that’s still very popular today, with a “who deserves respect” message.

This to kill a robin What you will see on stage is different from the books you are familiar with. In some ways, these changes are welcome. However, award-winning playwright Aaron Sorkin, who adapted Robin for stage, faced some challenges in the beginning. During development, the show was involved in two legal disputes, one of which came from the Harper Lee estate itself. They debated changes in the book, such as Atticus Finch being the protagonist instead of his daughter Scooter. In the end, the parties reached an agreement and the lawsuit was settled. Another controversy concerns a licensed work adapted by Christopher Sergel. Sorkin argued that his work had nothing to do with previous work, and the lawsuit was settled. Mockingbird opens at the Schubert Theater on Broadway on December 13, 2018, with Jeff Daniels as Atticus and Celia Kennanbolger as Boy Scouts. The show is a fresh take on the beloved novel, portraying Atticus as a bit naive rather than the perfect character we know from the books. The show also highlights the kids, Scout, Jem, and Dill, and provides them with all the narration. While the book touches on some very important material, the show shines with a little humor and hope in the dark.

Melanie Moore, Justin Mark and Steven Lee Johnson portray the three children, Scooter, Jem and Dill, with the Boy Scout charm we see as we read the book. It makes the story even more interesting when we experience these moments through a child’s eyes. Deere had a particularly powerful moment in court when prosecutors went after Tom Robinson (Yager T. Welch) in heinous ways, and Deere burst into tears. It was an incredibly moving moment for the kids and for Anthony Natale, who played the deaf character Link Deas. This is one of my favorite changes in the book. Sorkin combines several characters into one, making Link Diess, known as the drunk, a misunderstood white man who has lost his family—his black wife and his half-race son. It’s a very powerful moment when Natale signs his lines and the kids interpret his words.

A favorite of some viewers was the interaction between Atticus, portrayed by Richard Thomas, and Calpurnia, a domestic servant played by Jacqueline Williams. In the show, Atticus doesn’t seem to understand the injustice Calpurnia and Tom Robinson faced, as well as Calpurnia’s “passive-aggressiveness”, and the need for Atticus to teach children how to face the world and respect each other. One man’s rage, gives a very convincing performance. The play doesn’t shy away from heavy material and I heard a lot of gasps and angry outbursts from the audience especially after KKK’s presence and Bob Ewell And the racist remarks made by Mayella Ewell, played by Joey Collins and Arianna Gale Starkey. I have to applaud these two for their performance and personally congratulate them for making me hate them. It’s extremely difficult to stand on stage and face an audience when you know you’re being despised.I had a similar moment when I was making a racist juror 12 angry jurors in my college days. I stood in the middle of the room, spit out hateful, frank, disgusting words, and heard the boos and jeers of the audience. I even spat during the quiet moments of the show. It means I do my job well. It’s the actor’s job to make you feel that when they call out injustice like this, both actors make blood boil.

Richard Thomas absolutely stole the show as Atticus, showing a strong and gentle man and father. Unlike the book, however, we see another side of Atticus, including watching him slam and attack Bob Ewell after his trial. While we as viewers can understand his behavior, it’s interesting to see the changes up close.

The set is just as fun as the action happening on stage. The actors were responsible for moving the various sets, quickly transporting us to different locations, and finally back to the courtroom. Clothing and lighting also work for powerful and simple environments. Nothing flashy. After all, this was Alabama during a very dark period in American history.

Orpheum doesn’t have a lot of drama, so it’s a treat in itself. As audiences, we’re used to flashy musicals and stunning numbers. The Robin was equally moving, making for a very poignant evening for the theater.

My last call was a very special appearance on the show. Mary Badham, who played the racist old Mrs. Dubose, may be recognized by many. She actually played the role of Scout in the movie “The Robin” and was nominated for an Oscar for her performance. At the time, she was the youngest Oscar nominee. Her performance is chilling and she sparks outrage when she drives Jem to destroy her beloved camellia bush.

Don’t miss out on To Kill a Mockingbird until August 21st! Buy tickets today.

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