6 months ago

Review: Sorkin’s Broadway adaptation of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ doesn’t betray Harper Lee’s novel, definitely worth seeing

NEW YORK – Many feared for the worst when news broke earlier this year that an Aaron Sorkin stage adaptation of Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” would be opening on Broadway.

In this highly polarized political environment, I shared a suspicion that the Coastal elites behind this production would use Lee’s classic novel to perversely attack President Donald Trump or advance the latest hot-button left-wing cause du jour.

Yet, the temptation to go and find out what form this might take, however, was too much for the Alabamaphile in me to pass up.


So, ticket in hand, I set one rule for myself. Given my political leanings and general disgust for liberal virtue-signaling, I avoided reading the reviews from the professional Broadway watchers and media types.

Why is this presentation of Harper Lee’s signature work important? Obviously, there is the “To Kill a Mockingbird” cult following. More importantly, the novel and its companion “Go Set a Watchman” are important historical documents for the State of Alabama. Lee’s works are, to date, the best offering of life in rural 1930s and 1940s Alabama.

How would entertainment industry heavyweights like screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, producer Scott Rudin and lead actor Jeff Daniels disseminate that history to the tens of thousands who will see this production?

According to the Los Angeles Times’ Nardine Saad, Sorkin’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” has already grossed a record of nearly $1.6 million after its first full week and has an advance of more than $22 million in ticket sales.

Getting to this point wasn’t that easy for Sorkin and producer Scott Rudin. Back in March, Harper Lee’s estate sued Rudin. Lee estate attorney Tonja Carter raised concerns that the script deviated too much from the novel, and thus was in violation of an original agreement to put the story on Broadway.

In the end, the two sides quietly settled their dispute and nine months later, “To Kill a Mockingbird” opened at the Sam S. Shubert Theatre on West 44th Street in midtown Manhattan.

The 7 p.m. day-after-Christmas showing at the theater was a full-house affair, as are most of the shows from now until April. The show isn’t the usual out-of-town fare for tourists you might see at the nearby theaters showing “Frozen” or “Phantom of the Opera.”

The idea of “To Kill a Mockingbird” on Broadway for some may conjure a notion of a musical. Rest assured, Scout and Jem are not singing show tunes in this adaptation.

For the most part, the intellectual integrity of Lee’s novel remains intact. To fully appreciate this show, one would have to be familiar with the “To Kill a Mockingbird” story, which on its own is complex. Sorkin’s version is not chronological, and it isn’t entirely told from the viewpoint of protagonist Scout Finch, the narrator in Lee’s novel.

Sorkin takes his liberties with some of the characters. Calpurnia, the Finch family housekeeper, played by actress LaTanya Richardson Jackson, is much more of an outspoken critic of the racially divided society in Maycomb, Alabama, the setting for the story.

Dill, played by actor Gideon Glick, takes a slightly different form from the character portrayed in the novel and in the 1962 “To Kill a Mockingbird” film. He is more of an older version of Truman Capote than the childhood friend who is believed to be Lee’s basis for the character of Dill.

The hero of the tale Atticus Finch is played by Jeff Daniels, who has reinvented himself as more than just the guy from “Dumb and Dumber” over the last decade. At times, it is a struggle to watch Daniels, who hails from Michigan, pull off a southern accent. Otherwise, his portrayal of Atticus Finch, very much different from Gregory Peck in the 1962 film, works for this setting.

‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ lead actor Jeff Daniels signs autographs outside Shubert Theatre, 12/26/2018 (Jeff Poor/YHN)

It’s a respectable and professionally done production, as one should expect for any major Broadway show.

As for going out of the way to make a grand proclamation about current affairs, Sorkin does not do that. Antagonist Bob Ewell doesn’t put on a “Make America Great Again” ballcap or anything like that.

Sorkin, however, does make Bob Ewell, played by Frederick Weller, a more hateworthy figure, this time as anti-Semitic, in addition to being drunk and racist.

Other than these few wrinkles, Sorkin is true to Lee’s original story in the “To Kill a Mockingbird” novel. It has comedic elements, but they’re not over the top and don’t detract from the seriousness of the story.

However, one can’t help but wonder if Sorkin was using the end of the play to lay out a different path for Atticus Finch than what was in Lee’s “Go Set a Watchman,” which for some of the theatergoers tainted Harper Lee’s legacy.

If you are planning a trip to New York City and were on the fence about seeing it, it’s worth seeing. It is sure to be more thought-provoking than the bulk of the Disney-ified offerings currently showing on Broadway.

It is not an indictment of modern-day Alabama, nor of conservatives or who conservatives elect. Given American pop culture in 2018, that’s saying something.

On a side note:

As with any of these Broadway spectacles, there are “To Kill a Mockingbird” souvenirs available for purchase at the theater, but this list comes with one curiosity.

In addition to “a portion” of the proceeds from the sales going to the Monroe County Public Library in Monroeville, “Trayvon Martin” and the Montgomery-based Southern Poverty Law Center also receive a share.

Souvenir price list at the ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ showing on Broadway (Jeff Poor/YHN)

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and is the editor of Breitbart TV.

10 hours ago

University of North Alabama adopting new tuition plan

The University of North Alabama is switching to a tuition plan that officials say will result in increased costs for some students but not others.

Officials at the school in Florence say they are reducing the total number of student fees from seven to one, and fees will be included in the overall tuition cost.

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A statement says students taking 15 hours will see a maximum increase in expenses of 4.1%.

But some could pay less, and costs will not change for others.

School officials say a lag in state funding is a continuing problem.

North Alabama’s vice president for business, Evan Thornton, says the school has deferred maintenance and capital needs totaling more than $160 million.

The school has an undergraduate enrollment of about 6,200 students.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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10 hours ago

Nathan Lindsay joining governor’s office from BCA

Another high profile staffer from the Business Council of Alabama (BCA) is joining Governor Kay Ivey’s senior level team.

The governor on Monday announced that Nathan Lindsay will join her office as director of appointments effective July 1.

This position is charged with spearheading the meticulous work that goes into Ivey meeting her duty to appoint qualified, representative and appropriate people to positions on the state’s various boards and commissions.

A press release from the governor’s office outlined that Lindsay assumes the role with an extensive background in state government and the private sector, which uniquely qualifies him to advise the governor in this capacity.

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Most recently, through his work in political and governmental affairs at the BCA, Lindsay interacted with members of the business community throughout the Yellowhammer State, which significantly adds to his ability to identify and select candidates for various appointed posts.

Additionally, Lindsay’s early career included time in then-Governor Bob Riley’s office where he served as aide to the governor from 2006 to 2011. Lindsay also worked in the governor’s communications office as deputy press secretary and advised Riley on education policy.

“Nathan brings to our team a wealth of knowledge that I know will serve the state well,” Ivey said in a statement. “In addition to his expertise and insight, Nathan is a man of character. The men and women of my staff must have a strong work ethic, a depth of knowledge and a heart for public service. Nathan certainly embodies all of these characteristics.”

Lindsay earned his bachelor’s degree from Faulkner University. During his time at Faulkner, he served as SGA president and later, in 2018, he was awarded the Distinguished Alumni Award for the College of Arts and Sciences.

“As governor, I have the important responsibility of appointing qualified individuals to serve on the more than 450 boards and commissions in our state. These men and women must not only be highly-qualified, but they should also be a true reflection of our great state,” Ivey added. “I am confident we will continue to find the best people to serve our state, just as I am certain Nathan will serve my Administration exceptionally well in this position. His experience speaks for itself, and he shares my goal of moving Alabama into a better future.”

This comes weeks after Leah Garner departed BCA to become Ivey’s communications director.

Mark Colson also left BCA to become head of the Alabama Trucking Association recently.

Update 5:55 p.m.:

BCA President and CEO Katie Boyd Britt released a statement commending Ivey on the hire of Lindsay.

“Nathan’s background and expertise in political affairs combined with his political acumen uniquely qualify him to serve the governor and the state in this capacity,” Britt said. “I have no doubt Nathan will do an outstanding job, and I commend Governor Kay Ivey on this excellent addition to her staff.”

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

10 hours ago

Alabama listed as one of the top 20 most patriotic states in America

A WalletHub report released Monday revealed Alabama to be on of the top 20 most patriotic states in America.

Ranked 19 overall on the list, with a score of 47.43, Alabama ranked first for the “Civics Education Requirement.”

The report “compared the 50 states across 13 key indicators of patriotism” and “ranges from share of enlisted military population to share of adults who voted in the 2016 presidential election to AmeriCorps volunteers per capita.”

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With one as “Most Patriotic” and 25 as “Average,” Alabama received the following rankings:

  • 5th – Average Number of Military Enlistees per 1,000 Civilian Adults
  • 30th – Active-Duty Military Personnel per 100,000 Civilian Adults
  • 17th – Veterans per 1,000 Civilian Adults
  • 1st – Civics Education Requirement
  • 12th – Share of Civilian Adult Population in Military Reserves
  • 10th – Share of Adults Who Voted in 2016 Primary Elections

Alabama also ranked eight overall for ‘Military Engagement.’

The report, which compared red states to blue states in terms of patriotism, found that red states were more patriotic. Red states received an average rank of 23.67, while blue states received an average rank of 28.25.

Kyle Morris also contributes daily to Breitbart News. You can follow him on Twitter @RealKyleMorris.

11 hours ago

Brooks: ‘Really dumb’ for Democrats to elect candidates mainly on ‘skin pigmentation or their chromosomes’

In an interview on WVNN’s “The Dale Jackson Show”on Friday, Congressman Mo Brooks (AL-05) lamented that many Democrats have become more interested in racial and gender identity politics than the welfare of America.

Coming off of her much maligned comments comparing American immigration facilities to “concentration camps,” host Dale Jackson asked the north Alabama congressman if he believes that Democrats in Congress will allow Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) to continue to serve as their “de facto face and leader.”

“Yes,” Brooks answered succinctly, promoting a follow-up request for his reasoning.

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“Well, she is where she is,” Brooks explained. “She’s got a lot of political power. She’s got a lot of support — surprisingly.”

“There are large, large numbers of American citizens who have bit off on this socialist stuff, who have bit off on this victimization stuff, who have bit off on thinking that the most important criteria in determining whether to elect someone is their skin pigmentation or their chromosomes — which is really dumb, OK,” he continued. “We oughta be electing people based on their character and based on their public policy positions.”

“But, notwithstanding that, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has become the face of the Democratic Party in many different respects, and she does have great influence as evidenced by the presidential candidates on the socialist Democrats’ side who are trying to cultivate her support,” Brooks added. “They want her endorsement.”

Listen, starting at the 8:25 mark:

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

12 hours ago

Democrats hope it’s 2017 all over again, Republicans just want the nightmare to end

In 2017, Roy Moore won a Republican primary run-off against an extremely flawed Luther Strange. Strange wasn’t just a regular candidate — he had the cloud of his appointment, and he was dogged by former Gov. Robert Bentley’s investigation, impeachment and resignation.

Alabama Republicans, outside of U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), were reluctant to criticize Roy Moore because they knew doing so would hand the Senate seat to now-Senator Doug Jones (D-AL).

But this is different.

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State Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) told the Montgomery Advertiser that he blamed the GOP establishment in 2017, but still thinks Moore can’t win in 2020.

He stated, “I do not believe, with the numbers I look at, that Roy Moore at the end of the day can get the nomination.”

State Senator Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) dismissed Moore when asked about the candidates, saying, “If you look at the candidates, you got Roy Moore. I don’t think we need to say more there.”

Later, he all but endorsed U.S. Representative Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope) by saying Byrne “would do the best job.”

Secretary of State John Merrill, a potential future Moore opponent, believes Moore has an uphill battle against Jones.

“I think it would be extraordinarily difficult for Judge Moore to be successful in a general election campaign against Senator Jones,” Merrill outlined.

He added, “I also think it would be difficult for Judge Moore to secure the Republican nomination.”

Congressman Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville), who endorsed Moore in 2017, has already endorsed State Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Indian Springs) and is on record saying former U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions would be a favorite.

“I do believe that Jeff Sessions would clearly be number one in the poll rankings, based on his having been such a great senator on three principle issues: free enterprise versus socialism; deficit and debt; and border security,” he explained.

Say what you will, but you do not usually see these kinds of pronouncements from Republicans in the middle of a primary.

Democrats hope 2017 is going to be repeated in 2020, but there are many different factors that will matter.

Roy Moore is already fatally flawed as 300,000+ Republicans voters abandoned him in 2017 and stayed home. Many of those voters will vote in the primary in 2020, but will not vote for him.

U.S. Representative Mike Rogers (R-Saks) expressed a similar sentiment on CSPAN last week.

“I personally don’t think Roy Moore is going to be our nominee, but whoever our nominee is will prevail in November because you’ll have the full complement of Republican voters turning out turning out to vote,” he said.

This is not 2017.

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 am weekdays on WVNN.