‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ Relevancy Is Unmistakable

January 27, 2024

L-R Richard Thomas & Scout Backus in To Kill A Mockingbird –  Courtesy of Julia Cervantes. Used with permission.

To Kill A Mockingbird –  Courtesy of Julia Cervantes. Used with permission.

One would be hard pressed to find many people in this country who have not read Harper Lee’s ’To Kill  a Mockingbird,” a novel published in 1960 that was required reading in high schools and middle schools. The 1962 Oscar winning film version starring Gregory Peck further popularized the classic tale.  Now, Broadway in Indianapolis brings Allan Sorkin‘s dramatic adaptation to Indy with the stage version at Clowes Hall at Butler University, starring Emmy Award winning Richard Thomas best known as John Boy in “The Waltons.” I attended the Tuesday opening night performance  of the play which runs until Sunday, Jan. 28.

Set in Alabama in 1934, Harper Lee’s enduring story of racial injustice and childhood innocence 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 indelible residents of Maycomb, Alabama, are Bob Ewell, Tom Robinson, prosecutor Horace Gilmer, Judge Taylor and Mayella Ewell. If you haven’s yet read the novel I will spare you spoilers but can tell you the story focusing on Atticus, who represents  Black man Tom Robinson, falsely charged for raping a white woman, is  among one of the most gripping courtroom scenes ever depicted.

Yaegel T. Welch in To Kill A Mockingbird – Courtesy of Julia Cervantes. Used with permission.

The play is lengthy but it was so gripping that time passed quickly  due to Richard Thomas’s performance Atticus which was alternately warm, funny and riveting. The entire cast was uniformly superb, especially Yaegel T. Welch as Tom Robinson, Jacqueline Williams as Calpurnia and Ted Koch as Bob Ewell. Also outstanding were the performances turned in by Scout Bakus as Scout, Justin Mark as Jem and Stephen Lee Robinson as Dill.

The multi-functional set, lighting and 3os-era set, costumes, props and marvelous sound design and score were of the quality of the 2018 Broadway production from which it was duplicated.

The play’s script, which focuses on racial injustice, might be seen by some as just another “white savior” trope, but in it’s time it was considered groundbreaking.  It’s tragic thing that, racism may not be as directly brutal  as it was in the 30’s but with all the hate and injustice that is raising its ugly head these days, the play reminds us that there is still much work to be done before everyone in this country is free and equal.

For tickets and information about “To Kill a Mockingbird” visit Broadway in Indianapolis.



photo: Josh Humble

About Tom

Journalist, producer, director, Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker, arts administrator, TV contributor, actor, model, writer and lyricist, Tom Alvarez has had an extensive career in media and the fine arts and continues to be an enthusiastic and devoted fan of both. His passion and unique background grant him insight, access and perspective to cover, promote and review the arts in Indianapolis, Central Indiana and beyond. Follow him on social media @tomalvarezartswriter and @tomalvarez1.

Alvarez has been writing about theatre, dance, music, cinema and visual arts for 40 years. His work has appeared in the Indianapolis Star, NUVO, Indianapolis Monthly, Arts Indiana, Unite Magazine, Dance Magazine, NOTE Magazine, and Examiner.com, among many other print and online platforms. A former contributor to Across Indiana on WFYI-TV, he currently has a regular performing arts segment on WISH-TV’s Life. Style. Live!

A principal of Klein & Alvarez Productions, LLC, Alvarez co-created “Calder, The Musical” and is the managing director of Magic Thread Cabaret. As an actor-model, he has appeared in numerous TV and print ads and is represented by the Helen Wells Agency and Heyman Talent Artists Agency.

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