Will Atticus Finch be as big a Broadway sensation as Alexander Hamilton?
Aaron Sorkin's play based on Harper Lee's classic novel "To Kill a Mockingbird" opens Tuesday night on Broadway, propelled by a big media fanfare and major advertising campaign. Tickets won't come open until March, according to breathless ads in The New York Times.
Along with Sorkin's reputation for dramatic narrative and crisp dialogue, the play is directed by Broadway titan Bartlett Sher, a consistent hit-maker with musicals, comedies and serious drama.
The play stars Jeff Daniels, a deft character actor who has achieved enduring stardom in movies, TV and the theater. Although Gregory Peck defined the role in his Academy Award-winning movie performance, Daniels possesses the acting range and vocal dexterity to make the role his own.
Sorkin says he's conceived a fresh conception of Lee's character. He brings the play to New York after withstanding a suit by Lee's estate concerned about changes he made. Apparently not bound by a settlement with the Lee estate, Sorkin promises that the play will be different from the book, and Horton Foote's movie screenplay.
Will New York critics agree that it's a sin to kill a mockingbird, or Sorkin's version of it?
I expect New York Times lead critic Ben Brantley to review the play, and I'll be surprised if he doesn't go along with the pre-opening excitement. Brantley tends to follow the prevailing popular mood.
The reaction of The Wall Street Journal's Terry Teachout will also be telling. Teachout is known for deflating the bubble of productions lauded elsewhere.
No matter what the critics say, the theatrical version of "To Kill a Mockingbird" is all but guaranteed to be a hit rivaling "Hamilton."
Lee's Atticus Finch and her story of a small Alabama town's reckoning with justice touch deep chords in the American conscience.