‘Tuesdays with Morrie’ celebrates 20th anniversary with stage tour
Published 12:00 am, Tuesday, October 31, 2017
It was more than two decades ago when Mitch Albom, a Detroit Free Press sports writer, heard through the grapevine that an old friend was not doing well.
Although Albom hadn’t seen Morrie Schwartz in 16 years, the writer made it a point to visit his former mentor, a Brandeis University sociology professor, in Massachusetts.
It didn’t take long for the two to rekindle their special, warm relationship. For the next four months, Albom flew from Detroit to the Boston area every Tuesday to discuss life, philosophy and contemporary society with the professor, who was then dying from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, know as ALS.
The result was “Tuesdays with Morrie,” a 1997 memoir that became a New York Times best-selling book — billed as the best-selling memoir of all time, with about 10 million copies sold worldwide.
Albom, in a recent phone chat, said most of those visits were recorded because the professor had hoped that Albom would collaborate with him on an academic project, which did not materialize. But the resulting conversations, both poignant and amusing, would go far beyond academe. Albom’s book became a 1999 television movie starring Jack Lemmon and Hank Azaria. In late 2002, “Tuesdays with Morrie,” adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher and Albom, opened off-Broadway and has toured widely.
And now, celebrating the 20th anniversary of the book, the stage play is again circulating the nation; it comes to the Ridgefield Playhouse on Sunday, Nov. 5.
Ridgefield Playhouse, 80 E. Ridge. Sunday, Nov. 5, 7 p.m. $55. 203-438-5795, www.ridgefieldplayhouse.org
The memoir “is far more suited to the stage, where two people talking is most natural, where in film it needs to be fattened up” with extraneous happenings, Albom said.
The play has been in the news of late. Director Ron Ulrich and co-star David Keeley were denied work visas to come into the United States from Canada. Jamie Farr, who had performed the role of Morrie throughout Canada, then left the tour. The show was recast. Brandon Ewald, who trained at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London, plays Mitch and Gabriele Angieri, who plays Morrie, is FBI profiler Saul Aitken in the independent feature, “Profile of a Killer,” on Amazon Prime.
A radio host with WJR-AM and a television commentator with ESPN and ABC, Albom continues to thrive at the Detroit Free Press and in the city he loves. He has founded several nonprofit organizations there, including “The Dream Fund,” “A Time To Help” and “S.A.Y. Detroit,” which aids Detroit’s homeless.
The fame and fortune that have come his way were indeed unexpected, said Albom. (When Hearst Connecticut Media Group caught up with the writer, he was preparing for his monthly trip to Haiti, where he and his wife have an orphanage that cares for 47 children who he described as “lights” of his life.
“After all these years, I’ve come to the conclusion that the book resonates around the world primarily for three reasons,” he said.
“Everyone has an older mentor, or seeks one, whether it be a grandmother, the woman next door, or a teacher. Secondly, we all want to know where we fit in” — our place in society. “And finally, we’re all going to die, and somehow, ‘Morrie’ makes it less frightening.”
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