Remaining true to Cap Rep’s ‘Mockingbird’

When Don Noble landed the role of Atticus Finch in the Capital Repertory Theatre production of “To K

When Don Noble landed the role of Atticus Finch in the Capital Repertory Theatre production of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” he couldn’t resist popping in the DVD and watching the 1962 movie with Gregory Peck one more time. But only once.

“I did go back and watch the movie, mostly because I just loved it,” he said. “Now I’m busy staying away from it. Gregory Peck puts quite a stamp on that role. He was a celebrity and his portrayal won him an Oscar. I’m trying to forget all that. All I’m worrying about is what we’re doing in rehearsal.”

The show begins with previews Friday night, officially opens next Wednesday and runs through March 28. Written by Harper Lee, “To Kill a Mockingbird” was published in 1960, won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1961 and was voted Best Novel of the Century by the Library Journal in 1999.

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For Gazette theater writer Carol King’s review of this show, click here.

In 1962, Hollywood had already turned it into a movie, with Horton Foote also earning an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. Christopher Sergel wrote the stage version for his family’s company, Dramatic Publishing, in 1970, but the work wasn’t mounted for nearly 20 years, the first major American production taking place at the Papermill Playhouse in Milburn, N.J.

Films into plays

Sergel was an expert at turning great movies into successful plays, some of his other adaptations including “Cheaper by the Dozen,” “The Mouse That Roared,” “Up the Down Staircase,” and “Fame” to name a few.

‘To Kill a Mockingbird’

WHERE: Capital Repertory Theatre, 111 N Pearl St., Albany

WHEN: Previews begin 8 p.m. Friday, show opens 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. Show times are 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 3 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, through March 28

HOW MUCH: $44-$27

MORE INFO: 445-7469 or

Noble, who earlier this season performed at Capital Rep in “James Joyce’s The Dead,” is also a huge fan of “To Kill a Mockingbird” in book form, and was happy to see that Sergel’s stage play, like Foote’s screenplay, stays true to Lee’s work.

“Even though we’re doing the stage adaptation, you feel like you’re reading from the book,” said Noble. “I think the movie was a great interpretation of the book, and I think Christopher Sergel’s script also is true to the book. All that great dialogue that Harper Lee wrote is in the play.”

In his endeavor to put his own small stamp on the character of Atticus Finch, Noble is simply allowing the text to take him where he needs to go.

“I’ve enjoyed the script, and I’m continuing to use the book as a great resource for the character of Atticus,” said Noble, a Canadian-born actor who has spent much of the last three years working in New York City and also played Sam Carmichael in the national touring production of “Mamma Mia!”

“There are great descriptions of Atticus and how he handled certain situations. He comes across very clearly as a character in the script, so I feel I have a clear idea of what he was like without trying to seize someone else’s performance.”

Right for role

Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill, Capital Rep’s producing artistic director and the director of this show, was convinced Noble would make a fine Atticus after working with him in “James Joyce’s The Dead.”

“When you cast an actor for the role of Atticus, you have to look for several things,” she said. “You have to look for honesty, you need an actor who has a gravitas of integrity, and you need to make sure the person has a relationship with the children and appears to be a father. When I worked with Don in ‘The Dead’ I recognized that he had all those qualities. He’s an extremely thoughtful guy who was at the center of the cast and made everyone feel good about who they were. He loves to read and he’s very committed to the kind of political righteousness that Atticus believed in.”

Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” instantly became a classic work of American literature, telling the story of Atticus Finch and his two children, Jem and Scout, through Scout’s eyes. A lawyer in a small Southern town, Finch defends a black man named Tom Robinson against charges of rape. The story and Peck’s performance so resonated with film audiences that Atticus Finch was named the greatest American film hero ever in 2003 according to the American Film Institute. The other main storyline in the movie is how their father’s actions affect the lives of his two children.

“It was very important when the book was first published, during the civil rights movement, and it’s still important today,” said Noble. “We have a black president now, so we’ve come a lot farther than the people in the book could ever have imagined, but we’re still struggling with some of the issues. People love the courtroom scene, but what I really love about the story is the bond between a father and his children. Atticus doesn’t succeed in his fight for justice in this particular case, but he does succeed in keeping his family together and maintaining his relationship with them.”

Young performers

Mancinelli-Cahill came up with two sets of young actors to play the three children in the play. Teigin Legault of Green Island and Hanna Rose Neuman of East Greenbush will alternate playing Scout, while Saratoga Springs’ Brenny Rabine is the narrator, serving as Scout’s adult, off-stage voice. Christian Meola of Guilderland and Giordano Wagner of Schenectady will play Jem, while the third child, Dill, a summer visitor to the Finches’ neighborhood, will be played by Thomas Murray of Bethlehem and Connor Olney of Clifton Park.

Michael Anthony Williams and Kent Burnham, a pair of professional actors from New York, are playing Tom Robinson and Sheriff Heck Tate, respectively, while others in the cast include Albany’s Erica Tryon as Calpurnia and Russell Sage graduate Alexandra Tarantelli as Mayella Ewell.

Capital Rep first produced “Mockingbird” in 1997, and according to Mancinelli-Cahill it is the play most requested by school groups.

“It is even more important to tell this story to a new generation of young people who cannot appreciate the magnitude of the entrenched racism of the times,” she said. “When we ask teachers what they want their students to see they tell us ‘Mockingbird.’ ”

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