Aaron Sorkin’s hit stage adaptation of Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” will not return to Broadway. The show, which closed in January amid Jeff Daniels’ departure from the cast and a severe COVID-19 surge, was always thought to be on a temporary hiatus. But a series of emails unearthed by the New York Times reveal the tension among Sorkin, director Bartlett Sher, and producer Scott Rudin, who still maintains the stage rights to the production even though he reportedly stepped away from an active role after misconduct allegations emerged against him. At the last minute, Rudin apparently pulled the plug on the entire production and scrapped plans to re-mount it at the Shubert Theatre this fall.
Sorkin and Sher wrote that “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.”
“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. “I do not believe that a remount of ‘Mockingbird’ would have been competitive in the marketplace.”
In the end, Rudin maintained that his decision was purely financial and emphasized that this will not be the last time fans see this production of “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
“It’s too risky and the downside is too great,” he said. “I’m sorry you’re disappointed. It’s the right decision for the long life of the show.”
It remains to be seen what “long life” the show will have in the future. Sorkin’s adaptation of “To Kill a Mockingbird” was one of the more commercially successful straight plays to emerge on Broadway in recent years, grossing an average of $2 million a week in ticket sales. The show was nominated for nine Tony Awards, with Celia Keenan-Bolger winning one for Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play. It has also launched successful London and American touring productions, and was the first Broadway play ever to be performed at Madison Square Garden. It appeared to be positioned for a long lifespan, but Sorkin, Sher, and Rudin will have to get on the same page before that can happen.