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Review: TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD at Ed Mirvish Theatre

This daring and revealing story is on stage for a limited time.

By: Nov. 25, 2023
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American author Harper Lee published his novel To Kill a Mockingbird in 1960 and it became an instant hit. Who would've thought that a story about a small racially driven town in America's deep south caught up in the trial of a young Black man accused of assaulting a white teenage girl would continue to resonate with audiences across the world decades later, and even become required reading for many an English class. Actually, it's quite obvious why this story continues to be relevant - racism never dies.

Now on stage until the weekend and then returning for a limited time in 2024, Mirvish Productions presents Academy Award winner Aaron Sorkin's stage adaptation of Lee's Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece of American literature to Toronto audiences. Considering the current political and also racially driven landscape, seeing To Kill a Mockingbird now is as relevant and timely as ever.

Yaegel T. Welch plays Tom Robinson, a young Black man who works hard to provide for his family and who is made an outcast by a town who are none too fond of his skin colour. After a harrowing situation involving a young teenage girl Mayella Ewell (played by Mariah Lee), Tom is on trial for rape where the mandatory sentence is death by electric chair. Public defender Atticus Finch (Richard Thomas) is determined to see Tom walk as a free man. Finch's children, Scout (Melanie Moore), her brother Jem (Justin Mark), and their friend Dill Harris (Steven Lee Johnson) narrate the story from the wide-eyed perspective of children watching history unfold.

The nuances in this performance add to the richness of this story. Each layer adds multitudes of depth that help this story touch the hearts of audiences from varying generations. The story is told from the perspective of children, kids far too young to witness what they're witnessing during this trial, is why this story becomes such a powerful learning tool for young adults while the subject matter at hand is something many adults have witnessed or unfortunately lived through.

The children, in particular Scout with how she interacts with her brother and Dill and her retelling of the events as they unfold for the audience brings both brevity and comic relief to the otherwise grim and tragic event. Moore does a superb job in her portrayal with her wide-eyed defiance, and her innocence reflecting in these events unfolding before her eyes. 

Thomas as Atticus steals the show - his performance fighting for Robinson in the courtroom, his passion fueling his arguments in particular when he has Mayella's father Bob (Ted Koch) on the stand, and his desire to do right by his kids makes him a dynamo on stage and mesmerizing to watch.

Welch also does a fine job as Robinson, his fear drives him - fear in traversing this horrid ordeal with the looming sentence hanging overhead, fear he feels daily as a Black man in the white world of the deep south, and how despite all his reasons to do so, he can't lie. Actually, it's his conviction drives him which makes for such a powerful character to portray.

To Kill a Mockingbird stands the test of time to remain a pivotal piece of American literature to this day and the chance to see this profound production live on stage is one that should not be missed. There are very few chances left to see this performance and tickets are selling fast - do yourself a favor and don't miss out.


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