BAZ BAMIGBOYE: Busy Rhys Ifans answers the call of the Mockingbird

Actor Rhys Ifans, who is known for his role in Notting Hill, is to play Atticus Finch in an adaptation of To Kill A Mockingbird in the West End

Actor Rhys Ifans, who is known for his role in Notting Hill, is to play Atticus Finch in an adaptation of To Kill A Mockingbird in the West End

Rhys Ifans will play Atticus Finch, the small-town lawyer who defends an innocent black man falsely accused of raping a white woman in the Deep South, in the London production of Broadway hit play To Kill A Mockingbird.

The Welsh-born actor, known for his roles in breakthrough films Twin Town and Notting Hill, and later in The Amazing Spider-Man and Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows, is a champion of the stage. A graduate of the Guildhall School Of Music & Drama, he frequently treads the boards.

In the past few years he has played Fool to Glenda Jackson’s King Lear, and Scrooge at the Old Vic. He led the National’s Exit The King; and is now at the Royal Court in Ed Thomas’s play On Bear Ridge.

To Kill A Mockingbird, though, is in blockbuster country. The New York production, based on an adaptation of Harper Lee’s 1960 novel by Aaron Sorkin, plays to packed houses and takes an average of $2 million a week.

Sorkin kept the substance of Lee’s story about Tom Robinson, who’s sent to court to answer to the fabricated sex charge in a segregated town where the KKK is rampant. The story is told through the eyes of Finch’s two children: daughter Scout, her elder brother Jem and their friend Dill Harris, all played by adults.

The New York production, based on an adaptation of Harper Lee¿s 1960 novel by Aaron Sorkin, Atticus played by Gregory Peck

The New York production, based on an adaptation of Harper Lee’s 1960 novel by Aaron Sorkin, Atticus played by Gregory Peck

A movie still shows Atticus points out the obvious inequalities in the justice system and asks the jury to look at Thomas's case fairly. President Obama was taken by the moral conscience Lee imbued her courtly lawyer with and often cited lines from the book in his speeches

A movie still shows Atticus points out the obvious inequalities in the justice system and asks the jury to look at Thomas's case fairly. President Obama was taken by the moral conscience Lee imbued her courtly lawyer with and often cited lines from the book in his speeches

Peck (pictured with Joan Crawford) won Best Actor for director Robert Mulligan's film To Kill a Mockingbird in 1963

Peck (pictured with Joan Crawford) won Best Actor for director Robert Mulligan's film To Kill a Mockingbird in 1963

Peck holds a newspaper and dons a waistcoat in the 1960s classic

Peck holds a newspaper and dons a waistcoat in the 1960s classic

I caught Mockingbird twice on Broadway, with Jeff Daniels playing Atticus Finch, and was riveted by director Bartlett Sher’s breathtaking production.

Sher and his creative team, along with producers Scott Rudin and Sonia Friedman, are making final decisions soon as to who will play the roles of the children; as well as the crucial parts of Tom Robinson, Calpurnia, the Finches’ housekeeper, and Mayella Ewell, the young woman who cries rape. Mockingbird will begin performances (as this column revealed back in June) at the Gielgud Theatre on May 21 next year. Tickets go on public sale on December 6 (details about signing up for priority tickets at www.tokillamockingbird.co.uk).

Atticus Finch, one of the most principled idealists in literature, has remained an enduring symbol of equality. President Obama was taken by the moral conscience Lee imbued her courtly lawyer with and often cited lines from the book in his speeches.

Peck's character watches his son Scout reading a book in the Harper Lee classic, released in 1962

Peck's character watches his son Scout reading a book in the Harper Lee classic, released in 1962

Atticus has remained an enduring symbol of equality and Ifans is set to take on the heroic role. Mockingbird will begin performances (as this column revealed back in June) at the Gielgud Theatre on May 21 next year

Atticus has remained an enduring symbol of equality and Ifans is set to take on the heroic role. Mockingbird will begin performances (as this column revealed back in June) at the Gielgud Theatre on May 21 next year

There has been a revisionist reckoning by some regarding whether Atticus should still be considered a hero: you know, woke stuff about whether it’s cool for a black man to be saved by a white man. I can’t deny that crossed my mind when I first saw Sher’s production last winter but it was soon dispelled. Good people are good people, whoever the heck they are.

Ifans has several films out next year including Matthew Vaughn’s The King’s Man, in which he plays Rasputin; and Philippa Lowthorpe’s Misbehaviour, where he portrays one-time Miss World boss Eric Morley.

The actor was also seen in the recent Official Secrets.

Peck rests on the sofa with his on-screen children during the filming of To Kill A Mockingbird. Producers Scott Rudin and Sonia Friedman, who are making final decisions on the new adaptation starring Rhys Ifans, are still trying to figure out who will play the roles of the children; as well as the crucial parts of Tom Robinson, Calpurnia, the Finches¿ housekeeper, and Mayella Ewell

Peck rests on the sofa with his on-screen children during the filming of To Kill A Mockingbird. Producers Scott Rudin and Sonia Friedman, who are making final decisions on the new adaptation starring Rhys Ifans, are still trying to figure out who will play the roles of the children; as well as the crucial parts of Tom Robinson, Calpurnia, the Finches’ housekeeper, and Mayella Ewell

Harper Lee's novel was also adapted for Broadway and saw Jeff Daniels take up the role of Atticus in December last year

Harper Lee's novel was also adapted for Broadway and saw Jeff Daniels take up the role of Atticus in December last year

LaTanya Richardson takes a bow after the opening night performance of 'To Kill A Mocking Bird' at the Shubert Theatre in New York last December

LaTanya Richardson takes a bow after the opening night performance of 'To Kill A Mocking Bird' at the Shubert Theatre in New York last December

 

 Killian dons the Phantom's mask 

Irish singer Killian Donnelly will play the composer in The Phantom Of The Opera

Irish singer Killian Donnelly will play the composer in The Phantom Of The Opera

Killian Donnelly will play the masked composer in a new touring production of The Phantom Of The Opera.

The actor, who ends his run as Jean Valjean in a tour of Les Miserables in Southampton tomorrow night, mentioned to Cameron Mackintosh in passing that he’d love to have a crack at the Phantom.

Mackintosh and Andrew Lloyd Webber met with him. ‘Andrew loved him,’ Mackintosh told me.

Jess Koravos, CEO of the Really Useful Group, told me the show, a travelling production, is the last version of Phantom that director Hal Prince worked on before he died in July. ‘This is an exact replica of the original West End and Broadway production,’ she added — right down to the famous chandelier.

Mackintosh explained that the tour will be ‘lighter on its feet’. He said: ‘Killian is blessed with this wonderful vocal instrument and as an actor, he’s a chameleon, which means he has a remarkable age range.’

The tour begins at the Curve, Leicester, on February 22. Donnelly will play dates at the Palace in Manchester, Dublin’s Bord Gais Energy and Birmingham Hippodrome from July 29. The show will then continue on the road with another actor as the Phantom.

Donnelly, who came to prominence in The Commitments musical, has played to sold out theatres in Les Miz: a tribute to the show and to him. Regional audiences like to see a bona fide West End star.

 
  • The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe at London’s Bridge Theatre, featuring a great gung-ho cast, excellent puppetry and jaw-dropping designs by Rae Smith, is really magical. The Elliott & Harper production company is taking it on tour next year, starting at the Waterside Theatre in Aylesbury from November 20.

 

BAZ BAMIGBOYE: Busy Rhys Ifans answers the call of the Mockingbird 

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