Although the play stays true to the book, some changes had to be made for this show to last on Broadway. Harper Lee took her time getting to the trial, letting the reader know the antics and stories Scout and her Brother Jem were up to. Aaron Sorkin, the shows writer, does away with this and introduces the trial right away. The narration, which was just Scout in the book, is shared between Scout(Celia Keegan-Bolger), her brother Jem(Will Pullen), and their new friend Dill(Gideon Glick).
Each actor on the stage does a terrific job of bringing these beloved kids to life. Celia does a fantastic job of portraying Scout's childlike behaviors and strong opinions. From her skipping away from a scene, to smacking her hands off the porch repeatedly, these small details make it seem like Scout is a little girl, even though all the children are played by adults in the show. One of the most beautiful scenes are her more serious talks with her father Atticus; being able to see their father/daughter relationship in a whole new way is incredible.
Another character that jumps off the page and onto the stage is Jem. Will Pullen absolutely captured everything about Jem, from his brotherly relationship with Dill to his grown up, mature decisions when talking with Atticus. One of my favorite scenes from the novel was when Bob Ewell and a bunch of other men where trying to break into the jail and murder Tom Robinson, even with Atticus sitting outside the jail waiting for them. Right before they can attack Atticus, the three kids run in and stop anything from happening and send the men home. Each emotion Will Pullen put into that scene made me have chills the entire time I was watching. The defiance when he tells Atticus he isn't going anywhere when he tells Jem to take Scout and Dill home was amazing. Even him stepping up to be the one to go with Atticus to tell Tom Robinson's family he had been killed was such a powerful scene, even if it was just small and simple. Jem brought to life on stage was exactly how I imagined him to be, and so much more.
And last, but certainly not least of the children, Dill. Dill is definitely there for more of a comedic element with all the dark and serious topics in the show. Gideon Glick brings Dill to life in a whole new way and its perfection. His one-liners had me in tears from laughter and just the character of Dill as a whole played a bigger part in the show than the book, which I really enjoyed. Although Dill is a part made to lighten the mood, there were more serious scenes involving him which where probably some of my favorite in the whole play. While sitting on the porch, Atticus and Dill start talking about Dill's family and gives us more of an inside of how he was raised, and when Dill has to leave for good, his good-byes with the other children brought me to tears. Glick portrays this complex witty boy with a not-so-good home life in a new way which you definitely have to experience for yourself.
A pleasant surprise in the show was the expansion of Calpurnia(LaTanya Richardson Jackson) and Atticus's client, Tom Robinson(Gbenga Akinnagbe). With Tom, we get to see more of him and Atticus together preparing for the trial, and more from him talking about his own trial. Gbenga does an excellent job throughout the entire show, but his shining moment for me was when he was put on the witness stand. The emotion and power he put into telling his side of the story made me feel as if I was actually in the courtroom on that day. Calpurnia's bigger role made the audience get to see more of her personality shine. Her sternness to the children and her opinions make her a character who really stuck out to me when I saw the show. In the play, she is more than a housekeeper, but also Atticus's conscience and shows him the other side of some of his arguments. Their little arguments throughout the show makes Scout realize that Calpurnia and Atticus behave like her and Jem, like brother and sister.
Before I talk about the main man himself, I feel as if I can't write this without talking about these two specific characters which took my breath away each time they were on stage. Both Mayella and Bob Ewell, played by Erin Wilhelmi and Frederick Weller, respectively. Erin brought the character of Mayella to life, from her scared tones when talking about her father possibly abusing her, to her screaming in the courtroom when Atticus is grilling her with questions on the witness stand. Everything about the way she played Mayella was even better than I could have ever imagined. Same goes to Frederick's portrayal of Bob Ewell. This absolutely awful creature of a human being is even more vial in the show than the novel and I didn't even think that was possible. Every moment he is on stage you just can't believe how terrible this man is, and Frederick did an amazing job of bringing that to the stage. Both Ewells were played perfectly and these unique characters played by talented actors were two parts that stuck out the most to me.
Finally, last but certainly not least, Atticus Finch, played by Jeff Daniels. Now, don't get me wrong, I was definitely a bit skeptical over To Kill a Mockingbird being turned into a play, especially because some man would have the challenge to bring this beloved character to life. When my English class was reading the novel, the character of Atticus really stuck out to me and quickly became my favorite, from his life lessons he taught to his children, to the way he acted in the courtroom. Even with these high standards, Jeff Daniels delivered a show stopping performance.
When he first stepped on stage, the audience erupted in applause. Then, after seeing the show, I knew each clap was well deserved. The character of Atticus was changed slightly for the Broadway stage. They wanted to make him seem more human. They show some of his flaws, like lashing out at Bob Ewell and getting into a confrontation that was interrupted by Jem. Although Jeff's performance of such a unique and complex character was phenomenal, the place where he really shined was in the courtroom, for me specifically, the closing remarks. The lasting message he left with the jury, to prove Tom Robinson's innocence, was outstanding. From him going over the countless ways Tom is not guilty, to the raw emotion when he is begging the jury to let this man go home to his family, is enough to move you to tears. Jeff Daniels has been nominated for a Tony award for his portrayal of Atticus, and he definitely proved himself worthy of that nomination with his performance. Bringing such a well know and loved character to life is very tough, and Jeff Daniels knew that when he was taking this roll, but his performance as Atticus left me with only one word to describe it: perfection.
This record shattering play has been nominated for a total of 9 Tony Awards this Broadway season, and despite one of the biggest snubs in Tony history, I expect this show to win a lot of awards on June 9th. With many nominations going to more behind the scenes aspects, such as scenic design and lighting, others went to the actors on the stage, such as Gideon Glick and Ceila Keegan-Bolger for Best Featured Actor/Actress in a Play and Best Leading Actor for Jeff Daniels. This show brought one of my all time favorite novels to life in a way I could have never imagined. From the stunning sets and costumes, to each actor and actress that made characters in the book come alive, this show is definitely one that you don't want to miss.