'To Kill a Mockingbird' closes on Broadway as creators spar with Rudin
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'To Kill a Mockingbird' closes on Broadway as creators spar with Rudin
Jeff Daniels, left, and Celia Keenan-Bolger in “To Kill a Mockingbird” at the Shubert Theater in New York, Dec. 6, 2018. Sara Krulwich/The New York Times.

by Michael Paulson

NEW YORK, NY.- “To Kill a Mockingbird,” a stage adaptation of the classic novel that in January announced a temporary shutdown after Jeff Daniels left the cast and the omicron variant slammed into New York, will not reopen on Broadway.

The play’s writer, Aaron Sorkin, and director, Bartlett Sher, emailed the play’s cast and crew late Thursday to inform them of the decision, and they blamed the original lead producer, Scott Rudin, who had stepped away from an active role in the show after being accused of mistreating collaborators. According to Sorkin and Sher, “At the last moment, Scott reinserted himself as producer and for reasons which are, frankly, incomprehensible to us both, he stopped the play from reopening.”

Rudin, who continued to control the rights to the stage adaptation of the Harper Lee novel, sent his own email to Sorkin and Sher on Friday, attributing the decision to the economic situation on Broadway, where overall ticket sales have lagged behind pre-pandemic levels. Both emails were obtained by The New York Times.

“The reason I opted not to bring back TKAM has to do with my lack of confidence in the climate for plays next winter,” Rudin wrote, using an acronym for “To Kill a Mockingbird.” He added, “I do not believe that a remount of Mockingbird would have been competitive in the marketplace.”

The show continues to have a healthy life outside New York. A production in London’s West End opened in March, and a national tour in the United States opened in Boston in April. Those productions are unaffected by the Broadway closing.

The play opened on Broadway in late 2018 and was a hit before the pandemic, regularly selling around $2 million worth of tickets a week, which is quite high for a play, and recouping its $7.5 million investment costs 19 weeks after opening.

Broadway closed in March 2020 because of the pandemic, and “To Kill a Mockingbird” resumed performances in October, with Daniels returning to star as Atticus Finch, as he had done during the play’s first year. The play sold well until early January, with the exception of a week when breakthrough COVID cases forced performance cancellations; Daniels left the cast Jan. 2, at a time when Broadway grosses were already plunging because of the resurgent pandemic, and the show’s grosses cratered.

The play stopped performances at the Shubert Theater on Jan. 16, and Barry Diller, then functioning as lead producer, said it would resume performances June 1 at the Belasco Theater. That did not happen, and according to the email from Sher and Sorkin the most recent plan had been for the play to restart performances Nov. 2 at the Music Box Theater.

Sher and Sorkin described themselves in the email as “heartbroken” and said they “mourn the loss of all the jobs — onstage, backstage, and front of house — that just disappeared.” Rudin, in his email to them, said, “It’s too risky and the downside is too great. I’m sorry you’re disappointed. It’s the right decision for the long life of the show.”

Sher, Sorkin and Rudin all declined to comment, as did a spokesperson for the play. The decision to not reopen the play was previously reported by website Showbiz411.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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