Two Great Actors Plus One Great Director Equals “Tuesdays With Morrie” At Dramatic License

Aaron Orion Baker as Mitch and Bobby Miller as Morrie in "Tuesdays With Morrie" at Dramatic License. Photo: John Lamb

Aaron Orion Baker as Mitch and Bobby Miller as Morrie in “Tuesdays With Morrie” at Dramatic License. Photo: John Lamb

For almost an hour and a half the audience is spellbound by two of St. Louis’ greatest actors bringing the touching story of “Tuesdays With Morrie” to life on the unusual mall theatre stage at Dramatic License Productions. Jeffrey Hatcher’s touching adaptation of Mitch Albom’s book brings tears of laughter, joy and sorrow as we see how a professor can bring a selfish sports journalist to his knees with the power of kindness and generosity.

As I discussed with one of my fellow colleagues, you can use the old adage of a great actor bringing the telephone book to life to Bobby Miller. As she said, “he can make you laugh reading the yellow pages.” We see him as Morrie Schwartz at the end of his life when he is reunited with one of his former students. Although the student swore he would always stay in touch with his beloved professor, the exciting world of sport journalism took over his life and soon his wife and family- as well as his dear teacher- all became second to his skyrocketing career. How this elderly man is able to bring this man back to earth is simply amazing and, in the hands of a great actor like Mr. Miller, it becomes transcendent. He makes you laugh out loud, chortle and just be astounded how he can give this dying man such life. Another remarkable performance in a career so far filled with brilliant characters.

As the former student, Mitch (that’s right, Mr. Albom has written the show about himself) Aaron Orion Baker matches his fellow actor with a touching performance that subtly transforms him from a man with a phone attached to his ear and berating everyone he talks to on it to a man with actual compassion. This professor has managed to make this coast-to-coast gadabout firmly entrenched in his new weekly routine of scheduling his life around his Tuesday visits with this dying man who is teaching him much more in later life than he ever could have taught him in the classroom. We can see the nuanced performance of Mr. Baker take him from the riches of the almighty dollar to the riches of appreciating humanity in general and this man in particular. It’s an astounding portrayal.

Aaron Orion Baker and Bobby Miller in the Dramatic License Production of "Tuesdays With Morrie." Photo: John Lamb

Aaron Orion Baker and Bobby Miller in the Dramatic License Production of “Tuesdays With Morrie.” Photo: John Lamb

Wrapping it all together is another beloved member of the local acting and directing community, John Contini. He manages to squeeze every lighthearted moment between these two men who learn to love each other all over again and then bring an audience to sobbing- and I mean audibly sobbing- at plays’ end. It’s a gift and what a blessing for local theatre patrons to be able to witness these three icons of the business at the pinnacle.

Scott Schoonover’s beautiful set enhances the low key but moving story with just the right, subtle touches provided by lighting designer Max Parrilla. Lisa Hazelhorst’s costumes are also right on the button and an effective sound design by Joseph T. Pini completes the perfect technical aspects to this moving show.

From the poignant moments when Mitch ditches his first love, jazz piano, to take the more lucrative route, to the great opening scene where we see Morrie dancing about the halls of his retirement home, we marvel at the transformation both men make during the course of the play. “Tuesdays With Morrie” is an unforgettable story and you just can’t get these performances out of your head- they are terrific. Dramatic License Productions continues “Tuesdays With Morrie” through November 17th. Give them a call at 636-220-7012 or visit dramaticlicenseproductions.org for tickets or more information.

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