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To Kill a Mockingbird (2018 play)

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To Kill a Mockingbird
Promotional Playbill cover of the original Broadway production
Written byAaron Sorkin
Based onTo Kill a Mockingbird
by Harper Lee
Date premieredDecember 13, 2018 (2018-12-13)
Place premieredShubert Theatre, New York City
SettingMaycomb, Alabama

To Kill a Mockingbird is a 2018 play based on the 1960 novel of the same name by Harper Lee, adapted for the stage by Aaron Sorkin. It opened on Broadway at the Shubert Theatre on December 13, 2018. The play opened in London's West End at the Gielgud Theatre in March 2022.[1][2] The show follows the story of Atticus Finch, a lawyer in 1930s Alabama, as he defends Tom Robinson, a black man falsely accused of rape.[3] Varying from the book, the play has Atticus as the protagonist, not his daughter Scout, allowing his character to change throughout the show.[4] During development the show was involved in two legal disputes, the first with the Lee estate over the faithfulness of the play to the original book, and the second was due to exclusivity to the rights with productions using an earlier script by Christopher Sergel.[4][5] During opening week, the production garnered more than $1.5 million in box office sales and reviews by publications such as the New York Times, LA Times and AMNY were positive but not without criticism.[6][7][8][9]


Character Broadway West End US National Tour
2018 2022
Atticus Finch Jeff Daniels Rafe Spall Richard Thomas
Scout Finch Celia Keenan-Bolger Gwyneth Keyworth Melanie Moore
Jem Finch Will Pullen Harry Redding Justin Mark
Dill Harris Gideon Glick David Moorst Steven Lee Johnson
Bob Ewell Fred Weller Patrick O'Kane Joey Collins
Tom Robinson Gbenga Akinnagbe Jude Owusu Yaegel T. Welch
Horace Gilmer Stark Sands David Sturzaker Luke Smith
Judge John Taylor Dakin Matthews Jim Norton Richard Poe
Mayella Ewell Erin Wilhelmi Poppy Lee Friar Arianna Gayle Stucki
Link Deas Neal Huff Lloyd Hutchinson Anthony Natale
Boo Radley Danny Wolohan Harry Attwell Travis Johns
Calpurnia LaTanya Richardson Pamela Nomvete Jacqueline Williams

Notable Replacements[edit]

Broadway (2018–2022)[10][11]

West End (2022–2023) [12]

Production history[edit]

To Kill a Mockingbird at the Shubert Theatre in 2019

Broadway (2018–2022)[edit]

It was announced in February 2016 that Aaron Sorkin would bring the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel to Broadway, in a new production produced by Scott Rudin and directed by Bartlett Sher.[13] The book had previously been adapted for the stage but Rudin specified that this production would be completely unrelated to the prior pieces.[citation needed] On February 15, 2018, it was announced that Jeff Daniels would star in the production as Atticus Finch.[citation needed] Celia Keenan-Bolger and Will Pullen were also announced to play Scout and Jem Finch, respectively.[14] The production began previews at the Shubert Theatre on November 1, 2018, prior to an official opening on December 13, 2018.

During production the show was involved in two legal disputes, one with the Harper Lee estate, and the other against licensed productions of the Christopher Sergel adaptation.[15][16]

On March 12, 2020, the play suspended production due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[17] The play resumed performances on October 5, 2021 at the Shubert Theatre, with the original cast of Jeff Daniels and Celia Keenan-Bolger returning. A new executive producer, Orin Wolf, took over.[18] On January 12, 2022, it was announced the show would play its final performance at the Shubert Theatre on January 16, and reopen at the Belasco Theatre on June 1.[19] Greg Kinnear was set to resume as Atticus Finch when the production reopened.[20] However, the production did not reopen and on July 29, 2022, it was reported the Broadway production would not reopen after producer Scott Rudin decided that he did not have confidence in the climate for plays the following winter.[21]

West End (2022–2023)[edit]

In 2019 it was announced that the production would transfer to London's West End to the Gielgud Theatre opening in May 2020 with Rhys Ifans as Atticus Finch before being postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[22]

It eventually opened on 31 March 2022 with Rafe Spall replacing Ifans as Atticus Finch, and Gwyneth Keyworth as Scout.[23][24]

Spall was replaced by Richard Coyle[25] from August 2022 until November 2022, and then from December 2022 Matthew Modine took over as Atticus Finch [26] until the end of the extended run on 20 May 2023, with Anna Munden replacing Keyworth as Scout.

Legal disputes during production[edit]

Sorkin and the Harper Lee estate[edit]

During development of the play, the Lee estate believed that the proposed script varied too much from the book, and a complaint was filed in an Alabama federal court in March 2018.[15] In discussion with Sorkin about the terms of use for the rights to produce a play, it was specified by the estate that the character of Atticus should not deviate from the original character created by Harper Lee.[27] The Lee estate alleged that Sorkin had made too many changes to the original story by framing Atticus as the main character instead of Scout.[4] Sorkin describes how the evolution of Atticus was viewed by the Lee estate as being "far less dignified" than the original character but the show's lawyers disputed this point stating his character "does not derogate or depart from the spirit of the novel."[15] Because the Lee estate lawsuit was jeopardizing the release of the show, a countersuit of $10 million was filed by Sorkin's lawyers in April 2018.[27] In May 2018, the premiere of the show was confirmed after an agreement was reached between the two parties, and both lawsuits were settled.[27]

Rudin against licensed productions[edit]

Before Sorkin adapted To Kill a Mockingbird for the theatre, a different adaptation of the novel by playwright Christopher Sergel had been available for license for over 50 years.[28] Claiming worldwide exclusivity for the professional stage rights to any adaptation of Lee's novel, lawyers acting for the company Scott Rudin formed to produce Sorkin's adaptation, Atticus LLC (ALLC), moved to shut down productions of the Sergel adaption staged within 25 miles of any city that ALLC determined to be a major metropolitan center that might eventually host a production of Sorkin's adaptation, even if that company had already paid the rights holders.[29][30][5][31] Dozens of community and non-profit theaters across the US cancelled productions of Sergel's adaptation, as well as a professional tour planned in the UK.[32][33] After a public outcry, Scott Rudin offered to "ameliorate the hurt caused" by making Sorkin's adaptation available to regional producers.[34] In 2022, Harper Lee's estate was ordered by an arbitor to pay $2.5 million to Dramatic Publishing in damages and fees.[35]


Critical reception[edit]

While some critics criticized the liberties taken by Sorkin, the Los Angeles Times theater critic Charles McNulty however wrote that Sorkin's adaptation "moves as confidently as it speaks even if it doesn't completely add up dramatically."[7] McNulty disputes those who take issue with the changes Sorkin made to the story by stating that Sorkin "created something impeccably fresh."[7] Jesse Green, a theater critic from the New York Times articulated that Sorkin's choice to start with the trial and provide backstory through scenes going back in time was "very effective" for telling the story on stage.[8] Matt Windman argues that "some of Sorkin's choices are questionable" and that the set design was "too distracting to be effective."[9] Windman also articulates that the show "proves to be an engrossing, provocative, and uniformly well-acted adaptation."[9]

Box office[edit]

The show opened on December 13, 2018, during the week ending on December 23, the production grossed over $1.5 million, breaking the record for box office grosses for a non-musical play in a theater owned by The Shubert Organization.[6] Prior to opening, $22 million were made in advance ticket sales at the box office.[36]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Broadway production[edit]

Year Award Category Nominee Result
2019 Tony Awards[37] Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play Jeff Daniels Nominated
Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play Gideon Glick Nominated
Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play Celia Keenan-Bolger Won
Best Original Score Adam Guettel Nominated
Best Direction of a Play Bartlett Sher Nominated
Best Scenic Design of a Play Miriam Buether Nominated
Best Costume Design of a Play Ann Roth Nominated
Best Lighting Design of a Play Jennifer Tipton Nominated
Best Sound Design of a Play Scott Lehrer Nominated
Drama Desk Award[38] Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play Celia Keenan-Bolger Won
Drama League Awards[39] Outstanding Production of a Broadway or Off-Broadway Play Nominated
Distinguished Performance Award Jeff Daniels Nominated
Celia Keenan-Bolger Nominated
Outer Critics Circle Awards[40] Outstanding New Broadway Play Nominated
Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play Celia Keenan-Bolger Won
Outstanding Director of a Play Bartlett Sher Nominated

West End production[edit]

Year Award Category Nominee Result
2023 Laurence Olivier Awards Best Play Nominated
Best Actor Rafe Spall Nominated
Best Actor in a Supporting Role David Moorst Nominated
Best Director Bartlett Sher Nominated
Best Set Design Miriam Buether Nominated


  1. ^ "Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird opens at Gielgud Theatre May 2021". British Theatre.com. January 29, 2021.
  2. ^ "'To Kill a Mockingbird': Harper Lee's seminal novel is set to take the West End by storm in 2020". londonboxoffice.co.uk. London Box Office. December 6, 2019. Retrieved December 11, 2019.
  3. ^ Limbong, Andrew (December 26, 2018). "Aaron Sorkin Brings 'To Kill A Mockingbird' To The Broadway Stage". NPR.org.
  4. ^ a b c McNulty, Charles (April 30, 2019). "Aaron Sorkin talks 'To Kill a Mockingbird' and disavowing the white savior role". Los Angeles Times.
  5. ^ a b Peterson, Chris. "Issue Over Two Different Mockingbird Scripts" onstageblog, February 25, 2019
  6. ^ a b Hetrick, Adam (December 26, 2018). "Grosses Analysis: To Kill a Mockingbird Breaks 118-Year Broadway Box Office Record". Playbill.
  7. ^ a b c McNulty, Charles (December 14, 2018). "Review: In 'To Kill a Mockingbird' on Broadway, the words of Harper Lee but the voice of Aaron Sorkin". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 9, 2020.
  8. ^ a b Green, Jesse (December 13, 2018). "Review: A Broadway 'Mockingbird,' Elegiac and Effective". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved May 9, 2020.
  9. ^ a b c Windman, Matt (December 13, 2018). "'To Kill A Mockingbird' review: Aaron Sorkin delivers with new play". amNewYork. Retrieved May 9, 2020.
  10. ^ Ed Harris to Succeed Jeff Daniels in ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ on Broadway
  11. ^ Greg Kinnear Sets Broadway Debut In ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’
  12. ^ "Matthew Modine to star in "To Kill a Mockingbird" in the West End with new casting revealed". October 10, 2022.
  13. ^ "Aaron Sorkin Bringing Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird to Broadway". playbill.com. Playbill. February 10, 2016. Retrieved July 8, 2018.
  14. ^ "Jeff Daniels to Reunite With Aaron Sorkin for Broadway's To Kill a Mockingbird, With Celia Keenan-Bolger, Gideon Glick, and More". playbill.com. Playbill. February 15, 2018. Retrieved July 8, 2018.
  15. ^ a b c Alter, Alexandra; Paulson, Michael (March 14, 2018). "Harper Lee's Estate Sues Over Broadway Version of 'Mockingbird'". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved May 9, 2020.
  16. ^ Peterson, Chris (January 25, 2019). "Issue Over Two Different "To Kill a Mockingird" Scripts". OnStage Blog. Retrieved May 9, 2020.
  17. ^ Clement, Olivia (May 12, 2020). "Check the Statuses of Broadway Shows During the Coronavirus Shutdown". Playbill. Retrieved May 29, 2020.
  18. ^ Gans, Andrew (June 10, 2021). "To Kill a Mockingbird Will Reopen on Broadway With Original Stars Jeff Daniels and Celia Keenan-Bolger". Playbill. Retrieved June 10, 2021.
  19. ^ Huston, Caitlin (January 12, 2022). "'To Kill a Mockingbird' will move Broadway theaters, reopen in June". Retrieved January 13, 2022.
  20. ^ "To Kill a Mockingbird Ends Broadway Run at the Shubert January 16, Will Reopen This Summer at the Belasco". Playbill. Retrieved January 18, 2022.
  21. ^ Evans, Greg (July 29, 2022). "'To Kill A Mockingbird Won't Return To Broadway: Aaron Sorkin Blames Scott Rudin – Report". Deadline. Retrieved July 29, 2022.
  22. ^ Longman, Will (February 20, 2020). "To Kill a Mockingbird starring Rhys Ifans extends run in the West End". London Theatre Guide. Retrieved March 28, 2021.
  23. ^ "Rafe Spall to Star as Atticus Finch in the West End's To Kill a Mockingbird". Broadway.com. Retrieved March 28, 2021.
  24. ^ Akbar, Arifa (March 31, 2022). "To Kill a Mockingbird review - Harper Lee would approve of snappy Sorkin update". The Guardian. Retrieved April 2, 2022.
  25. ^ "Richard Coyle reflects on "To Kill a Mockingbird": 'Theatre reconnects me with what it means to be an actor'". October 7, 2022.
  26. ^ "Matthew Modine to play Atticus Finch in 'To Kill a Mockingbird'". October 10, 2022.
  27. ^ a b c Flood, Alison (May 11, 2018). "Mockingbird play set for Broadway after Harper Lee estate settles dispute". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved May 9, 2020.
  28. ^ "ABOUT THE AUTHOR AND PLAYWRIGHT: TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD". Utah Shakespeare Festival. Retrieved October 25, 2020.
  29. ^ Evans, Greg. " 'To Kill a Mockingbird' UK Tour Cancelled" deadline, January 22, 2019
  30. ^ Means, Sean."The Grand cancels its production of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ at Salt Lake Community College over a legal battle with a Broadway mogul" Salt Lake Tribune, February 20, 2019
  31. ^ Leighton, Paul. "'Mockingbird' killed in Marblehead" Salem News, February 25, 2019
  32. ^ "Associated Press". Associated Press. February 28, 2019. Retrieved October 25, 2020.
  33. ^ Schwartz, Matthew S. (March 2019). "Community Theaters Kill 'Mockingbird' Productions After Lawsuit Threat". NPR. Retrieved October 25, 2020.
  34. ^ "Scott Rudin Responds to 'Mockingbird' Controversy With a Solution". The Hollywood Reporter. March 2019. Retrieved October 25, 2020.
  35. ^ Alter, Alexandra (February 10, 2022). "Harper Lee Estate Told to Pay $2.5 Million in Dispute Over 'Mockingbird' Plays". The New York Times. Retrieved September 1, 2023.
  36. ^ Hetrick, Adam (December 26, 2018). "Grosses Analysis: To Kill a Mockingbird Breaks 118-Year Broadway Box Office Record". Playbill. Retrieved May 9, 2020.
  37. ^ "Hadestown, Ain't Too Proud & Tootsie Lead 2019 Tony Award Nominations".
  38. ^ McPhee, Rysn (April 25, 2019). "Nominations for the 2019 Drama Desk Awards Announced; Oklahoma!, Tootsie, Rags Parkland Lead the Pack". Playbill. Retrieved April 26, 2019.
  39. ^ Lefkowitz, Andy (April 17, 2019). "Nominations Announced for 85th Annual Drama League Awards". Broadway.com. Retrieved April 17, 2019.
  40. ^ Lefkowitz, Andy (April 23, 2019). "Hadestown, Tootsie & Oklahoma! Lead 2019 Outer Critics Circle Award Nominations". Broadway.com. Retrieved April 23, 2019.

External links[edit]