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Aisle Seat: “Mockingbird” Soars the Stratosphere

Updated: Dec 8, 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.


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.


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!


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

1 comment

1 Comment

Nov 20, 2021


Your talent is amazing!!

Good theater lives on in your words. Yes I will reread this book. The relevance of this story needs to be heard by all today.

Nancy ❤️

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