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Aisle Seat: “Mockingbird” Soars the Stratosphere

Updated: Dec 9, 2021

By Naomi Serviss / New York City



Broadway’s Tony Award-winning stunner,


To Kill a Mockingbird,


has returned to the Shubert Theatre,


sounding a joyful noise.


This newly crafted version is


an Aaron Sorkin (of TV fame) iteration

of Harper Lee’s seminal novel,


set in dusty Maycomb, Ala., 1934.


Many are familiar with this story


of a southern lawyer doing his utmost


to raise ethical, loving, children


without a mother’s nurturing.


A devoted caretaker has picked up the slack,


and bickers with Atticus


as though they were loving siblings.


If this drama were an upcoming television event


it would be dubbed Must-See TV!


If you must choose one Broadway play


choose “Mockingbird.”


Don’t bother standing on line at TKTS,


big waste of time.


Go straight to the box office,


maybe snag a ticket for that very day.


Jeff Daniels is utterly phenomenal.


Jeff Daniels
Jeff Daniels

The ensemble is one of the best you’ll see


on the Great White Way these days.


It’s worth the price of admission


just to see Atticus engage


in justifiable fisticuffs with an adversary!


Who knew Broadway would stage a fight scene for


Jeff Daniels, our Everyman?


Aaron Sorkin knew.


Jeff Daniels leaves January 2, 2022.


Greg Kinnear is stepping in after.


“Mockingbird” is as much a crowd-pleaser,


with as much staying power, as Hamilton.


locals and tourists alike


will flock to this show.


Locals have been thrilled to be


in this room when Mockingbird happens.


Being up close and personal


with one of the most versatile actors ever


is a thrill for the audience.


Even for jaded critics who’ve interviewed


Marian Seldes and Blair Brown


in their dressing rooms.


Not on the same day.


Jeff Daniels embodies the spirit


intended by author Harper Lee.


He practically channels the southern lawyer


in temperament, inflection


and small, world-weary gestures.


This is an American story about bigotry


and lynch mob mentality.


It’s also much more.


The post-Depression Deep South


was a stew of impoverished ignorance and racism.


Deftly folded in is childhood innocence,


unlikely friendships and bitter truths.


A history lesson writ large and horrifying.


But ultimately, filled with hope.


Like many, I was introduced


to the Finch family in school.


I strongly identified with the story’s narrator,


Scout Finch.


Jeff Daniels channels Atticus Finch with Celia Keenan-Bolger as Scout
Jeff Daniels channels Atticus Finch with Celia Keenan-Bolger as Scout

This overalled moppet was everything


I aspired to be.

Bold, confident, stubborn and didn’t fuss over


a scraped knee or mussed-up hair.


Scout asked a lot of questions.


Her creative imagination soared.


She had a loving father and brother


who looked after her.



The well-loved film version of Mockingbird


stars the venerable Gregory Peck


as an earnest, bespectacled country lawyer


working on the right side of justice.


He is steadfast and honorable,


passionate about his children’s


physical and emotional well-being.


And kind to his neighbors who can’t always pay


bills with cash.


Problem is, it’s on celluloid,


stuck in the past,


the same with each rewatching.


Fans of Harper Lee will not be disappointed


by the live version.


No performance is exactly the same.


The thrill of live theater is to be celebrated!


Masks and all!


Jeff Daniels,


who just wrapped Showtime’s new drama,


American Rust


is as popular as Tom Hanks,


another beloved American actor.


Both seem personable and fun to chill with.


Daniels brings an earthy weariness


to the staged role.


While hopeful the justice system


will uncover truth and lies,


he braces for disappointment.



The audience holds its collective breath


a few times during this powerful tragedy,


laced with humor and affection.


One of my favorite words to say out loud


came from this drama:


chiffarobe, a combo


of wardrobe and chest of drawers.


Mockingbird grips you


in the solar plexus from the get-go


when Scout Finch


(a remarkable Tony-winning Celia Kennan-Bolger)


introduces the audience


to the famous trial’s aftermath.


Jeff Daniels and Company
Jeff Daniels and Company

Then the story trips back and forth in time,


with cast members moving the set around


to depict the Finch’s porch,


the courtroom and the county jailhouse.


The set is as versatile as Daniels.


You may know bits and pieces of the story already.

The nitty gritty:


Tom Robinson (Michael Braugher’s Broadway debut)


a poor, black southerner accused of rape,


is tried for said crime.


The evidence proves Robinson’s innocence.


But this is 1934 Alabama,


where racists too often win the battles,


despite a poor country lawyer’s best intention.


It’s not often you’ll have the opportunity


to watch a masterful stage production like this


in your lifetime!


Take your kids—it will become


a teachable moment on the ride home.


The nearly three-hour performance fies by.


When it reaches its stunning conclusion,


the audience is stone quiet.


After a few seconds


the clapping begins, and the ovation


lasts nearly four minutes.




Postscript:


Why do people feel the need to film every experience


rather than enjoying it fully in the present?


That’s the definition of irony.


Dozens of people raised their iPhones and iPads


to film the bowing actors.


I’m sure that was not appreciated on stage.


Why is that even tolerated, Shubert management?


I know you’re not going to stop everyone from filming,


but maybe the inconsiderate lout


in front of me would have thought twice


if an announcement had been made


not to film the curtain calls,


prior to the show.


This has become


a more-often-than-not happenstance.


I hope people will come to their senses


and simply Be Here Now.


Lecture over.


Next time I’ll cover hard candy


and its dangers.



Post-Postscript:



Another reason why


I appreciated Sorkin’s fingerprints:

he left out the rabid dog scene!


You know what happened then, right?


Read the book to refresh your recall.


I’m certainly not revisiting that devastating scene.


I love dogs!


Hooray! Good call, Aaron!



Post-Post-Postscript



I had the distinct pleasure of seeing


a weary-looking Jeff Daniels with his pups


as he took them to Central Park for a walk.


Daniels with his two dogs, relaxing on a Central Park bench
Daniels with his two dogs, relaxing on a Central Park bench

He was walking his two gorgeous Australian shepherds.


One of them is named Magglio.


The other’s name is Scout.


 






Naomi Serviss is a New York-based award-winning journalist whose work has been published in The New York Times, Newsday, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Highroads (AAA magazine), in-flight publications, spa and travel magazines and websites, including BroadwayWorld.com

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