I must confess that as soon as I heard that the Broadway National Touring presentation of “To Kill a Mockingbird” was coming to Kansas City I knew I would be in attendance.
I first became aware of the story as a young man through the 1962 film version of Harper Lee’s novel, where I was moved by the Academy Award winning performance Gregory Peck, who plays attorney Atticus Finch. I immediately went to the local library, read the novel, then read it again. I’ve read it several times since. The Pulitzer Prize winner is my all-time favorite novel. The film is on my Top Ten Best Film List. So, I was excited to see a live performance, with the role of Atticus Finch played by none other than Richard Thomas, forever remembered as John Boy Walton to my generation.
Even though I was anxious to see the show, I must admit that from the first moment Scout (played by Melanie Moore) took the stage, I suddenly felt uneasy. Uneasy about how anything could top the film, or how could a new vision (by Aaron Sorkin) in any way convey the feelings generated by the novel. I needn’t had worried.
Richard Thomas was exceptional. No one, for me, will ever be Atticus Finch more than Peck, and it’s obvious that Thomas understand that. He brings his own experience to the stage, and it was spot on for this version.
Scout, Jem (Justin Mark) and Dill (Steven Lee Johnson) were very good as the three young children (and adults) who lead the audience on the show’s journey. The entire ensemble cast played well, especially Ted Koch as Bob Ewell and Jacqueline Williams as Calpurnia. The bonus highlight of the cast is that Mary Badham – who earned an Oscar nomination for her portrayal of Scout in the film version – plays the role of Mrs. Henry Dubose.
The presentation is set as a series of flashbacks, taking the audience inside the trial of a black man, Tom Robinson, accused of raping a young white girl, and the subsequent horrific end to his life at the hands of a racists mob. The story flows in and around the courtroom scenes, the children, and their efforts to get a look of the reclusive neighbor Boo Radley and of course, the climactic ending with an attempted murder of the Finch children, the death of Bob Ewell, and the end of the summer that changed their lives forever.
In the end, I greatly enjoyed this telling of “To Kill A Mockingbird.” I would encourage everyone to read the novel, watch the movie, and if given the chance…. see this play.
On a scale of zero to five, I give “To Kill a Mockingbird” 4.5 stars.
“To Kill a Mockingbird” runs in Kansas City through October 29th. For tickets to these and future performances, please click HERE.