To Kill a Mockingbird at the Fabulous Fox- St. Louis, MO
On March 5, 2023, I was able to see To Kill A Mockingbird on stage at the Fabulous Fox theatre in my hometown of St. Louis, MO.
If I'm being honest, it wasn't really on my radar as a must see event. While I offer up the utmost respect for Ms. Harper Lee for writing such a moving and pivotal work of fiction, I wasn't sure how it would translate to the stage... I was afraid it was going to be boring.
How much could they really do with a courtroom drama? Again, acknowledging how powerful the book was and the story still is to this day.
Again, another honesty moment... it wasn't until I saw that Richard Thomas was playing Atticus Finch. I recognize this name from my youth... from the Waltons. A television show I watched when I was younger. I loved this show and the Walton children and I grew up together on Walton's Mountain.
I even went to visit the real Walton's Mountain in the Blue Hills of Virginia when creator Earl Hamner, Jr. was born and raised and where he created the Walton stories based on his own life and family.
Suddenly, I needed to see this show. John Boy was literally right in my own back yard!
Richard Thomas has gone on to do amazing things in film, television and theatre, but I had pulled away from movies and television a while back and only recently had an opportunity to visit the beloved stage again. I HAD TO GO!
I persuaded my daughter who was four hours away - who had also been indoctrinated in the Waltons, as I continued to watch it on DVD- to come and watch it with me. We both just knew that the role of Atticus Finch was created for one such actor as Richard Thomas.
And may I say... we were not disappointed.
I have nothing but good things to say about this production. It moved me to my very soul! We were both hooked even from the opening lines.
Melanie Moore, the very talented actress that took on the iconic role of Scout was so... dare I say, perfect. From her impressive resume, it looks like her forte is in the world of dance and it shows by her smooth and elegant movements on stage as she embodied the role of an inquisitive, stubborn child.
In the program, some of the performers add thier social media handles, so I totally stalked her. And now, we are BFFs along with the 300,000 others that follow her too. Lol! What a talent she is.
The story is carried along mostly through the narration of Scout (Melanie Moore), her brother Jem (played by Justin Mark) and their friend Dill (played by Steven Lee Johnson).
They set the scene, introduce members of the upcoming story, smoothly and with humor and the story unfolds...
The writing of the script, done by Aaron Sorkin was absolutely brilliant. There wasn't a boring moment at all. I was still leaning forward in my seat when the curtain dropped and the lights came up for intermission. Riveting.
The story was revealed through the brilliant work of the actors and was so professionally done, you couldn't help but lay your emotions wide on the theatre floor.
It was probably one of the best stage performances I've seen in ages.
The entire cast was amazing. I do not say that lightly. They worked together so well. The story was seamless. The characters were vivid and realistic. Ms. Harper Lee would be so proud.
And Richard Thomas... he did not disappoint. His skill as an actor was there for all to see. His timing, his inflection, his emotion blended so perfectly with his fellow cast members.
(Sidenote: I hope they are a close knit bunch even behind the scenes... that would just make my heart so happy.)
He was given a warm welcome when he first appeared on stage and he did make an attempt at a Georgia southern drawl, but it didn't come out any better than his Virginia accent... which there was none. It didn't make me love him any less. His performance was flawless. You literally felt the connection to his children, to the odd neighbor child, to the defendant, to the the opposing council... Atticus Finch was a compassionate man... and as Calpurnia (played by Jacqueline Williams) would point out... to a fault... respecting those even at the cost of disrespecting people he loved the most.
Again, it all begins with a brilliant story, and the stage play was a comfortable adaptation and with the skill of the actors, the characters came to life in living, breathing, emotional form and offered to bring us along.
I have been familiar with this story for years... tens of years, but I have never been so moved or have allowed it to so heavily penetrate my heart.
I know, I'm gushing, but... it truly deserves all of my gush and ten times more. Being from the theatre community, I catch myself being stingy with compliments, but in this case, I can't think of ENOUGH ways to say how much I loved it.
Joey Collins who played Bob Ewell, was the perfectly portrayed villain. There were several opportunities he could have taken his role "over the top", but he played it perfectly while staying inside his boundaries. He got the very response from his audience that he was directed to receive.
And Arianna Gayle Stucki who played his daughter, Mayella, was heart-wrenching in all the right ways. The way the others in the courtroom interacted with her according to their stature (in their roles, of course) was so natural... you could feel her pain as she struggled with loyalty and brainwashing... punishment and isolation over compassion and guilt and loneliness.
I'm telling you... the entire cast was just impeccable!
I wish I could go see it again and again, but I will have to keep this memory with me. I wish, too, I could reach out to the cast and tell them just how much their performances meant to me, but I would feel my words would be lost in a sea of compliments that they are probably bombarded with everywhere they go.
So, I will share them with you. Wherever you are, if you have the occasion to see this performance, please make the effort to see it. And, it doesn't matter where you sit in the theatre, it will be a good seat.
The set moves about cleverly and just enough to immerse you into the scene. And even if you closed your eyes and listened... you would be blessed for having done so. (I don't recommend it, because it is such a visual masterpiece... but I'm just saying... you have options. Lol)
And, just as an extra bonus, I discovered that the actress that usually plays the role of the crabby neighbor, Mrs. Henry Dubose, was played by none other than Mary Badham. If that is a name that is unfamiliar to you, she is the actress who at 10 years old played the part of Scout in the original film of To Kill A Mockingbird starring Gregory Peck. She garnered an Oscar nomination for that role.
(On our day of seeing it we missed Ms. Badham's performance but enjoyed the skills of her talented understudy, Ms. Denise Cormier.)
Elizabeth Bourgeret is an author, blogger, podcast host and full-time traveller. Here is where you'll find her adventures. Grab your beverage of choice, pull of a chair and dive in...