Harper Lee’s ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ Starring Richard Thomas Holds Court at Segerstrom Center Dec. 27 – Jan. 8

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(l to r) Arianna Gayle Stucki (“Mayella Ewell”), Richard Thomas (“Atticus Finch”), Stephen Elrod (“Bailiff”), Richard Poe (“Judge Taylor”), Greg Wood (“Mr. Roscoe”) and Joey Collins (“Bob Ewell”)

How many of you studied Harper Lee’s 1960 novel “To Kill a Mockingbird” in high school?

Hands down. Yes, most of us have read the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about southern lawyer Atticus Finch and discussed the book’s themes of racial injustice, class, courage, and compassion that was turned into a riveting 1962 movie starring Gregory Peck.

Set in Alabama in 1934, Harper Lee’s enduring story centers on one of the most venerated characters in American literature: small-town lawyer Atticus Finch. The cast of characters includes Atticus’s daughter Scout, her brother Jem, their housekeeper and caretaker, Calpurnia, their visiting friend Dill, and a mysterious neighbor, the reclusive Arthur “Boo” Radley. The other unforgettable residents of Maycomb, Alabama, are Bob Ewell, Tom Robinson, prosecutor Horace Gilmer, Judge Taylor and Mayella Ewell.

Oddly enough, “To Kill a Mockingbird” was Lee’s only published novel until “Go Set a Watchman” in July 2015—less than a year before Lee died.

The new stage version of “To Kill a Mockingbird” was written by Aaron Sorkin (“The West Wing,” ”A Few Good Men”) and debuted on Broadway in 2018 directed by Bartlett Sher.

According to Steve Hertz in The Economist, Lee gave her approval for the stage production a few weeks before she died in 2016. However, in 2018 her estate sued the producers on the grounds that the script was a “fundamental rethink” of the story. The production countersued, and the case was settled before opening night.

Lee need not have worried, as the reviews for the stage adaptation of “To Kill a Mockingbird” have been overwhelmingly positive.

(l to r) Justin Mark (“Jem Finch”), Richard Thomas (“Atticus Finch”), Melanie Moore (“Scout Finch”) and Steven Lee Johnson (“Dill Harris”).

“Harper Lee’s classic makes magnificent theater” screamed the headline in New York Stage Review. “Concerns about whether the script by Aaron Sorkin supports or subverts the novelist’s intentions are instantly allayed, with the audience held in rapt attention throughout. This stage Mockingbird is majestically triumphant.”

The Hollywood Reporter agreed, stating the play was “A transfixing act of theatrical storytelling that makes us hang on every word as if experiencing the story for the first time.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer called “To Kill a Mockingbird” a “great American play.”

Now, this “great American play” comes to Segerstrom Center for the Arts December 27 through January 8.

Starring in the critically acclaimed production is Emmy Award-winning actor Richard Thomas as Atticus Finch. Many of us remember Thomas from his years on the acclaimed TV show “The Waltons.” Thomas has come a long way from those days. The actor was nominated for a Tony Award for his role in the Broadway production of “The Little Foxes,” and has acted in numerous Broadway and regional theater productions.

(l to r) Richard Thomas (“Atticus Finch”), Dorcas Sowunmi (“Ensemble”), Glenn Fleary (“Ensemble”), Jacqueline Williams (“Calpurnia”), and Yaegel T. Welch (“Tom Robinson”).

A notable cast member is Mary Badham, who plays Mrs. Henry Dubose. At the age of 10, Ms. Badham was chosen for the role of “Scout” for the feature film of “To Kill a Mockingbird” and earned an Oscar nomination for her performance. At that time, she was the youngest person ever nominated for a supporting role.

Mary Badham

Since then, she has promoted the book and film’s message about social injustice across the US (including for the National Endowment of the Arts and at two White House appearances) and received a US Speaker and Specialist Grant to participate in programs about “To Kill a Mockingbird” in Russia.

“To Kill a Mockingbird” began performances on November 1, 2018, at the Shubert Theatre and played to sold-out houses until the Broadway shutdown in March 2020. On February 26, 2020, “To Kill a Mockingbird” became the first-ever Broadway play to perform at New York’s Madison Square Garden, in front of approximately 18,000 New York City public school students, also marking the largest attendance at a single performance of a play ever in world theater.

The production resumed performances on October 5, 2021 and concluded its run at the Shubert Theatre on January 16, 2022.

The Segerstrom Center production is a rare opportunity to see what the critics have been raving about. Tickets start at $29. Call (714) 556-2787 or visit www.SCFTA.org.

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