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Blackwell Playhouse1
Average Rating Given : 4.00000
Reviews in Last 6 months :

To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
Overall Great Cast!
Monday, October 1, 2007
First let me start by saying that I am new to the Atlanta area and Iím very excited about the theater circuit here. There are so many theater options in the area but since it is close to my home, I choose to take in a show at the Blackwell Playhouse this weekend. To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my favorite novels ever and I was able to squeeze in a closing night performance. This play is a big undertaking for any theater and you never really know what youíre going to get when you see it performed live in community theater. Let me say that I was pleasantly surprised Saturday night.

Most theaters choose to put on a version of the play that has Scout as a grown woman handling a good deal of the narration. I suspect this is because they want to limit the roles of Scout, Jem and Dill and leave most of the heavy lifting to the adult actors. Blackwell surprised me and chose to let the kids pull their own weight. What a great decision on Director John Christianís part! I just wonder if he made this decision before or after casting the kids????

Ashley Foreman as Scout was incredible. Everything about her embodied the spirit of Jean Louise Finch. All the characteristics of Scout were present at the proper times; innocence, humor, curiosity and downright outrage. This kid had it all. She even looked like the Scout from my imagination with those disheveled pig tales.

The boys who portrayed Jem and Dill were good also. Jem had good expression and emotion but needed to project his lines a bit more. I suspect audience members in the back of the theater had a hard time hearing some of his best delivered lines. Dill was cute and definitely looked the part in his loafers and suspenders. He was somewhat monotone with most of his dialogue but I wonder if that was the direction he was given since Dill is the nerdiest of the children.

As you can tell, I was quite impressed with these kids. However, the rest of the cast was excellent as well. Actors who tackle Atticus Finch always amaze me. How do you follow Gregory Peck? Kevin Tillery did a pretty good job. He looked the part and delivered his lines well. I did notice a few times when he called characters the wrong names, but with so many lines, I guess you canít expect perfection.

Bob and Mayella Ewell were excellent as the characters you love to hate. Mr. Gilmer did a fine job of badgering poor Tom Robinson to the point of causing the audience to dislike him as well. Lou Brock as Tom Robinson delivered a fabulous performance on the witness stand. He wiped his eye one time and I wondered if he was actually forced to tears. I couldnít tell from my seat but I could feel the emotion. Another Blackwell surprise was casting a woman to play Reverend Sykes. It was definitely a departure from the original but it really worked. I loved the passionate singing delivered by ďSisterĒ Sykes.

Overall, the entire cast was strong. Even the interaction provided by Miss Maudie and Miss Stephanie in between scenes was strong. I especially liked the way Miss Maudie mocked busy body Miss Stephanie behind her back while they were talking with Scout about Boo Radley. Reading through the playbill, I noticed that this was Miss Stephanieís first acting experience. That is hard to believe unless sheís a busy body in real life. She nailed the character.

Donít get me wrong though, this production wasnít perfect. It could have definitely used some help with the lighting. Areas of the stage were very poorly lighted, including the balcony where the kids delivered lines during the trial. Also, the lights seemed to go up and down mid-scene. Additionally, some of the scene transitions were very awkward and I couldnít help but wonder what happened to Mr. Gilmerís closing arguments. Atticus got to recap his case but the prosecution was just skipped over. It felt a bit amateurish. Another distraction for me was all the unplanned noise. It appeared that several props fell over or were dropped unexpectedly but the cast did a good job of covering the mishaps. Also, toward the end of the show, Iíd swear I heard the cast talking backstage.

Overall, Iíd give this production a B+. It was a Saturday night well spent.

At the end of the show, the Director asked the audience to tell 10 people about the theater. Since Iím new to town and donít know 10 people yet, this review is my way of promoting Blackwell. Itís an ambitious little community theater. Give it a try.

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