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‘M*A*S*H’ debuts at NHS Friday

Korean War comedy-drama adapted to stage

At the age of 8 or 9, Alex Burkett remembered the hit series “M*A*S*H” was playing on television all the time.

Of course, he wasn’t watching new episodes during the famous show’s airtime from 1972 to 1983. The Newton High School senior is far too young to have done that. Still, the show’s popularity and continued longevity through reruns at least familiarized Burkett with the source material and Korean War setting, which is now being adapted onto the NHS Center for Performance stage.

Burkett plays the wisecracking surgeon Hawkeye Pierce in the theatrical adaptation of “M*A*S*H,” which he said bears a closer resemblance to the book, which preceded both the 1970 film of the same name and the comedy/drama television series.

“It’s definitely nothing we’ve ever done before,” Burkett said. “Most of our themes are westerns and fairytales and Disney stuff. To go from all of that to this — the war — you’re in the army, saluting people. It’s more formal, if anything.”

As a large, non-musical show, director Melinda Worthington said “M*A*S*H” is not necessarily a “high school-style” show and is a slightly more difficult to produce. It is longer and “a little more in-depth.” Although it is not a slapstick show, there is still an emphasis on timing the subtle comedy just right.

Even though the play is more closely related to its literary counterpart, Worthington added, fans of the movie and TV show will still recognize the characters like Trapper John McIntyre, Radar O’Reilly, Henry Blake and Margaret Houlihan, among others.

“Then the rest of the characters were characters that would have rotated in and out of the TV show,” Worthington said.

Therein lies a challenge for the high school production team.

“Whenever you do a stage production of something that’s well-loved, it’s a little bit harder for the live performers to capture those well-loved characters from a movie or TV show,” Worthington said. “The kids have done a really nice job of trying to stylize their mannerisms after the TV characters.”

Newton High’s adaptation of “M*A*S*H” plays 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the NHS Center for Performance.

Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or

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