Roger Rees

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Roger Rees
Roger Rees.jpg
Rees in 2004
Born(1944-05-05)5 May 1944
Died10 July 2015(2015-07-10) (aged 71)
OccupationActor, director
Years active1975–2015
Rick Elice (m. 2011)

Roger Rees (5 May 1944 – 10 July 2015) was a Welsh actor and director, widely known for his stage work. He won an Olivier Award and a Tony Award for his performance as the lead in The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby . He also received Obie Awards for his role in The End of the Day and as co-director of Peter and the Starcatcher . Rees was posthumously inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame in November 2015.

Welsh people nation and ethnic group native to Wales

The Welsh are a Celtic nation and ethnic group native to, or otherwise associated with, Wales, Welsh culture, Welsh history and the Welsh language. Wales is a country that is part of the United Kingdom, and the majority of people living in Wales are British citizens.

Tony Award awards for live Broadway theatre

The Antoinette Perry Award for Excellence in Broadway Theatre, more commonly known as the Tony Award, recognizes excellence in live Broadway theatre. The awards are presented by the American Theatre Wing and The Broadway League at an annual ceremony in Midtown Manhattan. The awards are given for Broadway productions and performances, and an award is given for regional theatre. Several discretionary non-competitive awards are also given, including a Special Tony Award, the Tony Honors for Excellence in Theatre, and the Isabelle Stevenson Award. The awards are named after Antoinette "Tony" Perry, co-founder of the American Theatre Wing.

<i>The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby</i> (play) play written by Charles Dickens

The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby is an 8½ hour-long adaptation of Charles Dickens’ novel, performed in two parts. Part 1 was 4 hours in length with one interval of 15 minutes. Part 2 was 4½ hours in length with two intervals of 12 minutes. It was originally presented onstage over two evenings, or in its entirety from early afternoon with a dinner break. Later it was presented on television over four evenings.


He was widely known to American television audiences for playing the characters Robin Colcord in Cheers and Lord John Marbury in The West Wing .

<i>Cheers</i> American TV sitcom, 1982–1993

Cheers is an American sitcom that ran on NBC from September 30, 1982, to May 20, 1993, with a total of 275 half-hour episodes for eleven seasons. The show was produced by Charles/Burrows/Charles Productions in association with Paramount Network Television. The show was created by the team of James Burrows, Glen Charles, and Les Charles. The show is set in a bar named Cheers in Boston, Massachusetts, where a group of locals meet to drink, relax, and socialize. The show's main theme song, co-written and performed by Gary Portnoy, lent its refrain "Where Everybody Knows Your Name" as the show's catchphrase.

<i>The West Wing</i> 1999–2006 American television serial drama

The West Wing is an American serial political drama television series created by Aaron Sorkin that was originally broadcast on NBC from September 22, 1999, to May 14, 2006. The series is set primarily in the West Wing of the White House, where the Oval Office and offices of presidential senior staff are located, during the fictitious Democratic administration of Josiah Bartlet.

Early life

Rees was born in Aberystwyth, Cardiganshire, Wales, the son of Doris Louise (née Smith), a shop clerk, and William John Rees, a police officer. [1] He studied art at the Camberwell College of Arts and the Slade School of Fine Art, turning to acting when he was painting backdrops at the Wimbledon Theatre and was asked to fill a part in a play. [2]

Aberystwyth town in Ceredigion, Wales

Aberystwyth is an ancient market town, administrative centre, community, and holiday resort in Ceredigion, Wales. It is located near the confluence of the Ystwyth and the Afon Rheidol.

Wales Country in northwest Europe, part of the United Kingdom

Wales is a country that is part of the United Kingdom and the island of Great Britain. It is bordered by England to the east, the Irish Sea to the north and west, and the Bristol Channel to the south. It had a population in 2011 of 3,063,456 and has a total area of 20,779 km2 (8,023 sq mi). Wales has over 1,680 miles (2,700 km) of coastline and is largely mountainous, with its higher peaks in the north and central areas, including Snowdon, its highest summit. The country lies within the north temperate zone and has a changeable, maritime climate.

Camberwell College of Arts grade II listed art school in Southwark, United kingdom

Camberwell College of Arts is a constituent college of the University of the Arts London, and is regarded as one of the UK's foremost art and design institutions. It is located in Camberwell in South London, England, with two sites, located in Peckham Road and Wilson Road. It offers further and higher education programmes, including postgraduate and PhD awards. The College has retained single degree options within Fine Art, offering specialist Bachelor of Arts courses in painting, sculpture, photography and drawing. The College also runs graduate and postgraduate courses in art conservation and fine art as well as design courses such as Graphic Design, Illustration and 3D Design.


Rees started his career with the Royal Shakespeare Company. [3] [4] He played Malcolm in the acclaimed Trevor Nunn 1976 stage and 1978 television production of Macbeth . [4] Rees created the title role in the original production of The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby , David Edgar's stage adaptation of the Charles Dickens novel, winning a Laurence Olivier Award for Actor of the Year in a New Play in 1980 and a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play in 1982. [4] A recorded version of the play also earned him an Emmy nomination in 1983. [5] He also starred in the original production of The Real Thing by Tom Stoppard at the Strand Theatre in London in 1982.

Royal Shakespeare Company British theatre company

The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) is a major British theatre company, based in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England. The company employs over 1,000 staff and produces around 20 productions a year. The RSC plays regularly in London, Newcastle upon Tyne, and on tour across the UK and internationally.

Sir Trevor Robert Nunn, CBE is an English theatre director. Nunn has been the Artistic Director for the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Royal National Theatre, and, currently, the Theatre Royal, Haymarket. He has directed dramas for the stage, like Macbeth, as well as opera and musicals, such as Cats (1981) and Les Misérables (1985).

<i>Macbeth</i> play by William Shakespeare

Macbeth is a tragedy by William Shakespeare; it is thought to have been first performed in 1606. It dramatises the damaging physical and psychological effects of political ambition on those who seek power for its own sake. Of all the plays that Shakespeare wrote during the reign of James I, who was patron of Shakespeare's acting company, Macbeth most clearly reflects the playwright's relationship with his sovereign. It was first published in the Folio of 1623, possibly from a prompt book, and is Shakespeare's shortest tragedy.

Rees began to work in television during the 1970s, appearing opposite Laurence Olivier in The Ebony Tower (1984). That same year, Rees portrayed Fred Hollywell in A Christmas Carol starring George C. Scott as Scrooge. In 1986 he played William Tyndale in God's Outlaw. From 1988 to 1991 he starred in the late 80s/early 90s British sitcom Singles , with co-star Judy Loe. From 1989 to 1991 and in 1993, he also appeared intermittently on the long-running American television series Cheers as the English tycoon Robin Colcord. His later television appearances include My So-Called Life as substitute teacher Mr. Racine, British Ambassador Lord John Marbury on The West Wing and James MacPherson on Warehouse 13 . [4] His film career began in the 1980s. Rees played the Sheriff of Rottingham in the Mel Brooks movie, Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993). [4] Rees' later film appearances include Frida (2002), The Prestige (2006) and The Pink Panther (2006). [4]

Laurence Olivier 20th-century English actor, director and producer

Laurence Kerr Olivier, Baron Olivier, was an English actor and director who, along with his contemporaries Ralph Richardson, Peggy Ashcroft and John Gielgud, dominated the British stage of the mid-20th century. He also worked in films throughout his career, playing more than fifty cinema roles. Late in his career, he had considerable success in television roles.

<i>The Ebony Tower</i> novel by John Fowles

The Ebony Tower (1974) by John Fowles is a collection of five novellas and short stories with interlacing themes, each built around a medieval myth: The Ebony Tower,Eliduc, Poor Koko, The Enigma and The Cloud.

<i>A Christmas Carol</i> (1984 film) 1984 US television film directed by Clive Donner

A Christmas Carol is a 1984 British-American made-for-television film adaptation of Charles Dickens' famous 1843 novella of the same name. The film is directed by Clive Donner, who had been an editor of the 1951 film Scrooge, and stars George C. Scott as Ebenezer Scrooge. It was filmed in the historic medieval county town of Shrewsbury in Shropshire.

Continuing his work in the theatre through the 1990s, both as an actor and a director, Rees was awarded an Obie Award for his 1992 performance in the Off-Broadway play The End of the Day. In 1995 he was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play for his role in Indiscretions. [4] [6] He recorded many audiobooks, including Memnoch the Devil by Anne Rice. [7]

The Obie Awards or Off-Broadway Theater Awards are annual awards originally given by The Village Voice newspaper to theatre artists and groups in New York City. In September 2014, the awards were jointly presented and administered with the American Theatre Wing. As the Tony Awards cover Broadway productions, the Obie Awards cover Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway productions.

From November 2004 to October 2007, Rees was artistic director of the Williamstown Theatre Festival, only the fourth person to hold the post in its half-century history. [4] [8] He replaced Nathan Lane in the role of Gomez Addams in the Broadway musical adaptation of The Addams Family , on 22 March 2011 and remained until the end of the run on 31 December 2011. [9] [10]

In 2012, Rees took his one-man Shakespeare show, What You Will, to London's West End, playing a three-week engagement at the Apollo Theatre.

In 2013, Rees directed Crispin Whitell's play, The Primrose Path, at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis.

In 2014, Rees directed Dog and Pony, a musical written by Rick Elice and Michael Patrick Walker, which had its world premiere at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego.

His last role was as Anton Schell in the musical version of The Visit , opposite Chita Rivera, which opened on Broadway on 23 April 2015 and closed on 14 June 2015. [11] Rees left the production in May 2015 due to his illness. [12]

Rees was to have directed a new musical written by Elice and Will Van Dyke, Magnificent Climb, in the fall of 2016 at MCC Theater in New York. He was also scheduled to perform his one-man Shakespeare show, What You Will in New York in the autumn of 2015, and had hoped to return to the Royal Shakespeare Company for a stint in Don Quixote in 2016. He was inducted into the exclusive entertainment fraternity, the Grand Order of Water Rats, as a full member. [13]

Personal life

Rees had lived in the United States for more than 25 years; [2] he became a naturalised U.S. citizen in 1989. [5] He converted to Judaism in the 1980s. [14] Rees married his partner of 33 years, playwright Rick Elice, in 2011. [15] [16] [17] Rees and Elice also collaborated professionally, including as co-playwrights of the comedic thriller Double Double. [18] Elice co-wrote (with Marshall Brickman) the libretto for The Addams Family musical, the cast of which Rees had joined on 22 March 2011. In 2012, Elice and Rees received Tony Award nominations for Elice's stage adaptation and Rees' co-direction (with Alex Timbers), respectively, of Peter and the Starcatcher . [4] In October 2017, Elice wrote a memoir of his life with Rees, entitled Finding Roger: An Improbably Theatrical Love Story. [19]

Illness and death

After a diagnosis of brain cancer in October 2014, Rees focused his energy on his commitment to playing opposite Chita Rivera on Broadway in The Visit , the final musical written by John Kander and Fred Ebb. While undergoing two brain surgeries, two courses of radiation and ongoing chemotherapy, Rees managed to rehearse, preview and open in The Visit on 23 April 2015. By the middle of May, it had become too difficult for him to speak, and he left the show. Rees died at age 71 at his home in New York on 10 July 2015. On Wednesday, 15 July 2015, the marquee lights at all the theatres on Broadway were dimmed in his honour. [20] His ashes were scattered in the Atlantic Ocean. Two months later, there was a memorial service for him at Broadway's New Amsterdam Theatre. [21]





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  1. "Roger Rees Biography (1944–)".
  2. 1 2 Khomami, Nadia (11 July 2015). "Actor Roger Rees dies aged 71". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 July 2015.
  3. Roger Rees profile, Yahoo! Movies; accessed 11 July 2015.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 "Roger Rees, Tony Winner and Robin Colcord on 'Cheers,' Dies". Wall Street Journal. New York. 11 July 2015. Retrieved 12 July 2015. Roger Rees, the lanky Tony Award-winning Welsh-born actor and director who made his mark onstage as Nicholas Nickleby and later played English multi-millionaire Robin Colcord on the TV show "Cheers," has died. He was 71.
  5. 1 2 Simonson, Robert (11 July 2015). "Roger Rees, Stage Actor Made Famous by Nicholas Nickleby, Dies at 71". Playbill. Retrieved 12 July 2015.
  6. " Indiscretions Listing on Broadway", accessed 24 May 2015
  7. "Roger Rees – Narrators – AudioFile Magazine".
  8. "Rees Leaving Williamstown Theatre Festival"
  9. BWW News Desk. "Roger Rees to Replace Nathan Lane in THE ADDAMS FAMILY". Retrieved 12 July 2015.
  10. "Roger Rees Extends THE ADDAMS FAMILY Run Through Closing on December 31". 19 September 2011. Retrieved 11 October 2012.
  11. Hetrick, Adam. "A Musical Nearly 20 Years in the Making: 'The Visit', Starring Chita Rivera, Arrives On Broadway at Long Last",, 26 March 2015
  12. Roger Rees to miss performances of The Visit,; accessed 12 July 2015.
  13. "Biography of a Water Rat".
  14. "How 'Peter and the Starcatcher' took flight – The Ticket". Jewish Journal.
  15. "Roger Rees ramps up What You Will".
  16. "Roger Rees Tests His 'Will' Shakespearean Roles Don't Define the Actor, but He's Clearly Bard-Wired" by Peter Marks The Washington Post Sunday, 25 March 2007
  17. Michael Schulman (4 June 2012). "Backstory". The New Yorker.
  18. "Review: 'Double Double'". Variety. 22 August 2006. Retrieved 11 July 2015.
  19. Riedel, Michael (28 September 2017). "The Broadway love story of two kings of the Great White Way". New York Post. Retrieved 2 May 2018.
  20. Barnes, Mike (10 July 2015). "Roger Rees, Star of 'The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby,' Dies at 71". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 11 July 2015.
  21. Desk, BWW News. "Roger Rees Memorial Set for September 21 at The New Amsterdam Theatre".
  22. "Mountains of the Moon (1990): Full Cast & Crew". IMDb.
  23. Rees, Jasper (27 November 2016). "The Mayflower Pilgrims: Behind the Myth was a rigorous historical account told with clarity: review". The Telegraph. Retrieved 29 November 2016.
  24. Trowbridge, Simon (2010). "Roger Rees". A Biographical Dictionary of the Royal Shakespeare Company. Oxford, England: Editions Simon Creed. ISBN   0-9559830-2-9.
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  26. "The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby". RSC Database. Archived from the original on 8 July 2012. Retrieved 20 November 2011.
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