John Grisham Novel Comes to Broadway for the First Time

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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The cast of 'A Time to Kill' at the John Golden Theatre. The cast of 'A Time to Kill' at the John Golden Theatre.

Crime novelist John Grisham is one of the most successful novelists of our time. Now, his novel "A Time to Kill," has come to the Broadway stage at the John Golden Theater. It’s Grisham’s first novel, and the first of his books that he has allowed to be adapted for theatrical presentation.

The adaptation is by Rupert Holmes, whose legendary contribution to the stage is the musical "The Mystery of Edwin Drood," based on a work by Charles Dickens. The cast of "A Time to Kill" includes Tom Skerritt, Fred Thomson, Tonya Pinkins and other respected, high-profile performers, and the show is directed by Ethan McSweeny.

Moving a work of art from one medium to another is always risky, but the long list of literary works that have found new depth and even greater renown on stage and screen makes the gamble one worth taking. But if box-office receipts are one way of measuring the success of that gamble (and they are), then the stage version of "A Time to Kill" seems not to be the winner that was hoped for.

The show closes Nov. 17, and New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood offers some thoughts on the production and on the difficulty of moving dramatic excitement from the page to the stage.

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