This is what we talk about when we talk about the "end of an era." Eighty-five-year-old character actor Barry Fuller was the first person to play the part of Ebenezer Scrooge when Theatre Memphis (TM) staged its first production of A Christmas Carol 36 years ago. He has returned to TM to play the old skinflint a dozen times and is doing so once again for the 13th and final time this year. The news isn't all bad. Fuller, who most recently appeared as a medical specimen in the Halloween hit Young Frankenstein, isn't retiring from the stage altogether, but as far as Dickens' famous miser goes, he thinks it's time to pass the baton.
Born in Australia, the actor's earliest theatrical memories are of playing "the old prophets" in church productions, wearing a fake beard with a piece of rope tied around his head. In 1997, Fuller, who is also a gifted director, an irresistible song-and-dance man, and a veteran of Memphis' Front Street Theatre (where he acted alongside future Broadway staples like George Hearn, Dixie Carter, and Polly Holliday), was honored with the Eugart Yerian Award for lifetime achievement in Memphis theater.
To honor a journey that began in 1952, when Fuller boarded a boat bound for high adventure in exotic ports of call, then on to America to study drama, Theatre Memphis is hosting a gala party in Fuller's honor Thursday, Dec. 19.
A Christmas Carol is at Theatre Memphis, December 6th-23rd. The benefit gala honoring Barry Fuller is December 6th at 6 p.m. Tickets are $100 per person and include cocktail buffet, performance, dessert bar, and silent auction. Call 682-8323 for details.