Best Seat In The House: ‘To Kill A Mockingbird,’ highest-grossing American play in Broadway history, opens Tuesday at RBTL

[anvplayer video=”5181163″ station=”998131″]

ROCHESTER, N.Y. – This week, the highest-grossing American play in Broadway history is in Rochester. The national tour of To Kill A Mockingbird opens Tuesday night at Rochester Broadway Theatre League’s Auditorium Theater and runs through Sunday, June 18.

Written by Harper Lee and published in 1960, To Kill A Mockingbird has become one of the most influential stories in American history. It’s a story of racial injustice, set in the fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama in 1934. Actor Yaegel T. Welch plays Tom Robinson.

”He’s a 25-year-old man who is on trial for being accused of rape, something he couldn’t have possibly done because he’s disabled,” said Welch. “And it’s 1934 and the system is working against him.”

The novel won A Pulitzer Prize and has been adapted for the stage and screen. Academy Award winner Aaron Sorkin’s 2018 version, which has eight performances in Rochester this week, has been hailed as “the most successful American play in Broadway history” by 60 Minutes, and “an emotionally shattering landmark production of an American classic” by Rolling Stone, among other glowing reviews.

Among the cast is Mary Badham, who played young Scout in the 1962 film adaptation starring Gregory Peck. Emmy Award winner Richard Thomas plays the venerable Atticus Finch. You might recognize him from his role as “John-Boy” on the hit show The Waltons.

”Aaron Sorkin has given us a slightly more accessible, flawed, and teachable Atticus, and he has created a narrative for him of a loss of innocence which parallels that of the kids in the story,” said Thomas. ”It speaks to what we feel as Americans about our idealized sense of who we are, and that an idealized sense of who we are isn’t sufficient to the people who are not cared for.”

The novel has been a staple on school bookshelves for decades, and recently it’s been the subject of debate. Some school districts across the country moving to ban it.

”I think it’s absolutely relevant that this book… there are people who want to ban this book,” said Thomas. “Because it’s precisely the problem we’re in right now. It’s the story of our story – people don’t want to look at the problem.”

From the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s to today’s Black Lives Matter movement, this story about injustice, childhood, and standing up for what is right continues to triumph.

”I think America particularly is at a divide… in how we should move forward, in which direction we should go,” said Welch. “But this book would present ideas that might inspire people to want to change and eradicate racism.”

Emily Putnam: “What do you hope audiences take away?”

Yaegel T. Welch: “I hope that they’re coming out with a great, great sense of empathy, and a desire to act.”

For more information and to buy tickets, click here.