note: entire contents copyright 2011 by Sheila Barth
Last Saturday night, the Boston Children’s Theatre (BCT) welcomed former Academy Award nominee Mary Badham to opening night of its vivid production of Harper Lee’s masterpiece, “To Kill A Mockingbird,” appearing for a brief run at the Wimberly Theatre. When Badham was 10 years old, she played 11-year-old Scout in the highly acclaimed 1962 movie starring Gregory Peck.
A pre-show reception was held to celebrate the theater company’s 60th anniversary and the 50th anniversary of the then-controversial movie that focuses on segregation, racism, legal inequity and injustice in 1930’s Alabama. For Badham, “To Kill A Mockingbird” wasn’t just a Hollywood movie. She lived in Birmingham, Ala. then, and witnessed segregation and social intolerance firsthand.
In a post-show discussion, the gracious Alabaman praised this landmark Boston production, the cast, and BCT Executive Artistic Producer/Director Burgess Clark, saying they poignantly delivered Lee’s message of tolerance and humanity, seen through the eyes of a child. Since making the movie, Badham performed in a few other movies and on TV series, but she channels her energy into touring schools and theaters nationally and internationally to spread Lee’s message. She said the book is still taught in schools everywhere.
She delighted in 11-year-old Victoria “Tori” Cargill’s performance as precocious tomboy, Jean Louise “Scout” Finch. And bubbly Tori, who shines on stage, (she’s from Beverly Farms and has performed at North Shore Music Theatre and other theaters), was excited to meet the “real” Scout (Badham).
The BCT has veered from its original format of featuring mostly child and youth actors, but successfully continues to blend amateurs, professionals and youth performers, including Charlestown’s Kevin Paquette. The 36-member cast is primarily adult, but Tori, Bryan Marden as her brother, Jeremy “Jem” Finch, and Alec Shiman, (who adds comic relief as the children’s visiting friend, Charles Baker “Dill” Harris, in this heavy-hitting drama) are outstanding. Dawn Testa’s costumes, Janie E. Howland’s humble set and Anthony R. Phelps’ dramatic lighting add finishing touches.
The plot involves a righteous local lawyer, Atticus Finch, (Doug Bowen-Flynn) who defends a black man, Tom Robinson,(Andy Jasmin) in smalltown Maycomb, Ala. in 1935.
Hard-drinkin’, white trash Bob Ewell (Tim Lawton) and his meek-mannered daughter, Mayella, (Alyson Grindall) accused Robinson of raping and attacking Mayella. During Atticus’ cross-examination, the two become enraged, unruly.
Because Robinson is black, he stands no chance of winning.While he’s awaiting trial, a lynch mob storms the jailhouse, but is averted by Scout, who confronts a man, shaming him with her childhood innocence. While the children learn a tough lesson about intolerance and injustice, Jem and Scout’s lives are saved by a least likely hero.
Equity actress Andrea Lyman adds her own brand of humor and warmth as the Finches’ black nanny. Also notable are Ellen Soderberg as narrator-kindly neighbor Miss Maudie Atkinson, Conrad Krendel-Clark as recluse neighbor Arthur “Boo” Radley, and Stephen Turner as mild-mannered sheriff Heck Tate.
Don’t miss BCT’s production. It’s outstanding family fare.
BOX INFO: The Boston Children’s Theatre (BCT) production of two-act adaptation by Christopher Sergel, based on novel by Harper Lee, appearing May 14, at 2, 7:30 p.m., and May 15 at 2 p.m. at the Wimberly Theatre, Boston Center for the Arts, 527 Tremont St., South End, Boston.Tickets:$25. Visit www.bostonchildrenstheatre.org or call 617-424-6634, Ext. 222.