'Tuesday's with Morrie': From the page to the stage

By Sheena Barnett/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Readers have gotten to know the characters in Mitch Albom’s “Tuesdays with Morrie” for the past month, and now they can see them come to life.
The stage version of Albom’s bestseller and the first selection for Tupelo Reads will hit the Lyric Theatre next weekend.
“Morrie is a very inspirational, positive individual,” said Harold Plunkett, who stars as the college professor dying of Lou Gehrig’s Disease. “He lives life in the moment, and he has not let death have a negative impact on him.”
Enter Mitch, Morrie’s student from years ago, played by Christopher Walrath.
Years after Mitch’s college career, the two are teacher and student, again, as Morrie’s health declines.
Through Walrath and Plunkett are portraying real folks, they’re taking a few liberties with their performances.
“This is an everyman’s story,” Walrath said. “Everybody has suffered some form of loss. And (Mitch) is fighting his own regrets.”
He can relate to Mitch, which helps him carve out his character.
“It’s easier to be honest, to make it real to the audience,” he said. “I get lost in the play in my head.”
“Tuesdays with Morrie” is the ultimate relateable story, said director Susan Tims.
“We have all been Mitches, and we will all be Morries,” Tims said.
Tims’ daughter had a college professor who was a student of Morrie’s, so she was able to glean a bit about the real Morrie from her and use those personality traits – like Morrie’s out-dated clothes and tendency to hug everyone – in the show.
Albom worked with playwright Jeffrey Hatcher, and the pair condensed the book into a one-act, two-person play, said Tims. The stripped-down play makes for a heavier emotional impact, but it’s not all serious and sad.
“It’s really a celebration of life,” Tims said.
The play deals with some deep issues, for sure – life, love, death – but it’s actually pretty light-hearted.
“There are some great one-liners, some zingers,” Tims said. “(Morrie) has some funny lines.”
“They’ll laugh more than they’ll cry,” Plunkett promised.

On Stage
What: “Tuesdays with Morrie,” directed by Susan Tims

When: 7:30 p.m. Sept. 29-30, 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Oct. 1

Where: Lyric Theatre

Cost: $15/adults, $6/students
Info: (662) 844-1935

• Cast: Harold Plunkett (Morrie), Christopher Walrath (Mitch)

On the big screen
The TV movie “Tuesdays with Morrie” will be screened at Fairpark on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. It’s free.