Everyone surely remembers Corporal Max Klinger, the dress-wearing, Section 8 seeking scoundrel who together with Hawkeye and Trapper John kept things hopping on M.A.S.H. The latest role for Jamie Farr is in Nashville as he takes on the role of Scrooge for "A Musical Christmas Carol" playing now at the Ryman Auditorium.
Although this adaptation by David H. Bell deviates from the original Dickens version by the addition of Christmas carols throughout, as well as in the way many of the scenes play, it still holds true to the fundamental theme of the book -- that people are the business that life is about.
The addition of the carols is a mixed blessing, diluting the force of the play as much as emphasizing it. However, "A Christmas Carol" can be hard to sit through for the umpteenth time and the carols are a nice change. In addition to the musical note, the carols add to a not-too-subliminal enhancement of a strong theme of Biblical redemption which runs throughout this version with more clarity than any adaptation I have yet seen. It surely is no accident that as Scrooge lies huddled on the floor after his last confrontation with the ghastly Spirit of Christmas Future, the chorus surrounds him, some even laying their hands on his shoulders while they sing "how silently the wondrous gift is given." Then a new, changed, reborn, Scrooge arises to welcome Christmas Day.
Low points: mic/sound problems, the strobe lights, the questionable accents of Farr and one or two other cast members, and the sports finger sported by the Ghost of Christmas Future.
High points, the Ghost of Christmas Present, Marley's ghost, the ghoulishly effective Ghost of Christmas Future (except those hands), adorable Tiny Tim, and Farr's contagious, uninhibited joy in each and every scene that required him to manifest joy. His luminous smile and schoolboy glee in scenes where he relived the best of his past and discovered the joys of his present were infectious.
Farr will be immortalized as M.A.S.H.'s whiny, conniving, even cynical Corporal Klinger, but he shines as the reborn Scrooge.
Married to the same woman for 38 years, Farr told the audience at the Ryman's tree-lighting ceremony before the performance he had not been away from his family on Thanksgiving or Christmas for over 40 years. He emphasized how important family is. After seeing him in "A Christmas Carol," I can only hope he brings as much fun to his family Christmases as he does to the stage... and I just bet he does!