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7 Things to Know About the Broadway ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ Adaptation


Readers have revered To Kill a Mockingbird — the story of a heroic lawyer fighting injustice in 1930s Alabama — for decades, and now there’s a brand-new To Kill a Mockingbird adaptation coming soon! The unforgettable tale of the Finch family will be brought to life via a Broadway play. While a stage version of Harper Lee’s Pulitzer–winning novel has been running since 1990, a large-scale production of the book has never been attempted on Broadway until now. We’ve rounded up everything fans need to know about the To Kill a Mockingbird Broadway adaptation, including the cast, changes from the novel, and premiere date. Check it out below.

 

1. The play, written by Aaron Sorkin, stars Jeff Daniels as Atticus Finch.

This isn’t the first time the two have collaborated — the writer and actor worked together on HBO’s The Newsroom, for which Daniels earned an Emmy.  The Newsroom producer Scott Rudin is also working on the To Kill a Mockingbird adaptation.

The idea of this stage adaptation has been in the works for at least two years, and having Daniels star as Atticus was planned from the earliest talks. “We never talked about anybody but Jeff, from the very first conversation Aaron and I ever had about doing this together,” producer Scott Rudin revealed to The Washington Post.

Tony Award winner Bartlett Sher will direct the adaptation, which is set to officially open at New York’s Lincoln Center Theater on December 13.

 

2. Adult actors have been cast in the roles of the story’s children.

Scout, Jem, and Dill have been cast as adults, with Celia Keenan-Bolger, Will Pullen, and Gideon Glick starring, respectively, and there is a good reason behind this casting choice. The novel itself is Scout’s recollection of the past, so the play is portraying the events as a retelling of her memories. Sorkin elaborates on this decision:

“In a novel, we’re okay with listening to children talk and watching them behave because the author, in this case Harper Lee, has made sure it’s of interest to adults. On a Broadway stage, we’re not going to be able to watch children for that long.”

 

3. One very important character, Boo Radley, has not yet been cast.

Sorkin has not announced who will play the character of Boo Radley, the reclusive and mysterious Finch family neighbor, in his new Broadway show. The beloved 1962 film adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird featured a young Robert Duvall in this role.

 

4. The whole cast has been involved in the production of the play.

Before a Broadway script is finished, much time is spent in workshops that involve dialogue read-throughs and stage blocking alongside the writing and rewriting. In a highly unusual occurrence, some of the Broadway cast and crew of To Kill a Mockingbird were able to take part in the project’s development. According to Rudin:

“We just finished two full labs of Aaron’s play, both directed by Bart, and both with this entire cast. It’s an extraordinarily rare occurrence that you can build a play on the people who will ultimately be in it, but that is what we were lucky enough to do.”

 

5. Atticus will stay true to his To Kill a Mockingbird character.

The events in the To Kill a Mockingbird sequel released in 2015, Go Set a Watchman, take place 20 years after the first novel. Readers were stunned by the racism shown by an older Atticus, but Rudin assures fans that the new script more closely follows Lee’s first book:

“The Atticus we do is going to be the Atticus of To Kill A Mockingbird. He’s one of the greatest characters ever created in American literature.”

 

6. Audiences will notice changes from the book.

Sorkin wants to prepare loyal readers for the changes between the page and the stage. When speaking about the challenge of adapting a beloved American classic, he told the New York Times:

“You can’t just wrap the original in Bubble Wrap and move it as gently as you can onto the stage. It’s blasphemous to say it, but at some point, I have to take over.”

One rumored change is that the role of the Finches’ housekeeper, Calpurnia, will be larger on stage. Additionally, reports say that Daniels’s Atticus will face more struggles with the denial of the racism shown by his contemporaries than he did in the novel.

 

7. Lee’s estate is suing over the adaptation.

Just this week, Lee’s estate filed a lawsuit against the play’s producers, claiming that there are too many deviations from the original script, which goes against the agreed-upon contract for the adaptation. Lawyers for Rudin have responded, stating that despite the changes, the script “does not derogate or depart from the spirit of the novel, nor alter the fundamental natures of the characters in the novel.”

Rudin added: “I can’t and won’t present a play that feels like it was written in the year the book was written in terms of its racial politics: It wouldn’t be of interest. The world has changed since then.”

 

What do you think of this new To Kill a Mockingbird adaptation? Let us know in the comments!


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About Mary Ellen Bellusci

Mary Ellen Bellusci is a longtime resident of Baltimore, Maryland... A foodie, traveler, writer, and pursuer of happiness.