The Broadway community mourns the loss of Tony Award® – winning actor and Tony Award – nominated director, Roger Rees, who passed away on Friday at age 71, after a brief journey with cancer. His husband, Rick Elice, and family and friends were at his side.
The marquees of Broadway theatres in New York will be dimmed in his memory on Wednesday, July 15th, at exactly 7:45pm for one minute. People will be gathering on W45th Street where his image can be seen on the marquees of some of the theaters.
Charlotte St. Martin , President of the Broadway League, said, “We are so fortunate that Roger Rees has graced our stages through the years and inspired us with his brilliant talent. In addition to his acting and directing accomplishments, his generous heart and warm, giving spirit will be greatly missed by his family, friends and fans.”
Roger Rees began his career with the Royal Shakespeare Company and attended the Slade School of Fine Arts.
He played Malcolm in the acclaimed Trevor Nunn 1976 stage and 1978 television production of Macbeth, to great acclaim.
Most famously, Rees created the title role in the original production of The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, David Edgar’s stage adaptation of the Dickens novel, winning both an 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.
He also starred in the original production of The Real Thing by Tom Stoppard at the Strand Theatre in London in 1982.
Rees began to work in television during the 1970s, appearing opposite Laurence Olivier in “The Ebony Tower” (1984). From 1988 to 1991 he starred in the popular British sitcom “Singles,” with co-star Judy Loe.
From 1989 to 1991 and in 1993, he also appeared intermittently on the long-running American TV series “Cheers” as the English tycoon Robin Colcord. 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.”
His film career began in 1983 when Bob Fosse cast him to star in Star 80 opposite Mariel Hemingway.
Rees played the Sheriff of Rottingham in Mel Brooks’ film, Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993). Later film appearances include Frida (2002) and The Prestige (2006).
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. That same year, he also participated as narrator for the audiobook edition of “Memnoch the Devil” by Anne Rice. As for audiobooks, Rees performed in a wide variety of programs.
In November 2004, Rees was named Artistic Director of the Williamstown Theatre Festival, only the fourth person to hold the post in its half century history.
He succeeded Nathan Lane in the role of Gomez in the Broadway musical adaptation of The Addams Family, on March 22, 2010 and was in the rest of the run. His last West End appearance was in the acclaimed production of Waiting for Godot opposite Ian McKellen at the Haymarket. They also toured the production globally, most memorably, to South Africa.
Rees achieved acclaim as a noted stage director including Peter and the Starcatcher (along with Alex Timbers) which he developed, first at Williamstown Theatre Festival, then La Jolla Playhouse, and in New York at New York Theatre Workshop and on Broadway for which he received a Tony Award nomination for Best Director (the play won five Tony Awards).
He is survived by Mr. Elice. A private funeral service will be held next week. A memorial tribute to Roger will be held in a Broadway Theatre sometime after Labor Day. And in his honor donations can be made to:
Gifts to the Roger Rees Permanent Memorial can be mailed to:
The Actors Fund
729 Seventh Avenue
New York NY 10019
Or by going to: https://donate.actorsfund.org/tribute
When you get to the site, go to the “type” prompt and click on Permanent Memorial, then enter Roger’s first and last name below.
Rees’ last Broadway appearance was the starring role of Anton Schell in The Visit, opposite Chita Rivera, which opened April 23, 2015.
Additional Broadway credits included The Winslow Boys, Uncle Vanya, The Rehearsal and London Assurance.
“Roger was inspirational. He had the perpetual boyishness and mischief of a Peter Pan, extraordinary wit combined with a gift for self-satire, and dauntless optimism coupled with deep-rooted belief. All these ingredients went into his acting, and I am sure, into his directing, and gave him an aura of rare, generous spirited humanity. He was always superb at being just ‘one of the gang’ in the company, while equally deft at leading by example, leading by commitment. All this was sublimated in his Nicholas Nickleby, the giant success of which led him to change his life by moving to America. I spent a magical evening with him in New York only a few months ago. He talked of his illness – with optimism, with wit, with self-satire, and with deep-rooted belief … and once again, to be in his presence was inspirational.”
– Trevor Nunn
Lia Chang is an actor, a performance and fine art botanical photographer, and an award-winning multi-platform journalist. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon and Taxman. She has guest starred on “One Life to Live,” “As the World Turns,” and “New York Undercover.” She is profiled in Jade Magazine.
Other articles by Lia Chang
Photo Tribute: Welsh Actor and Director Roger Rees, a Tony, Olivier and Obie Winner Best Known for Nicholas Nickleby, ‘Cheers,’ ‘The West Wing,’ and most recently, The Visit, Dies at 71
Photos and Video:’The Visit’ Broadway cast performance and CD signing at Barnes & Noble with Chita Rivera, John Kander, Graciela Daniele and Co.
Tony Award Winners Chita Rivera and Roger Rees, Jason Danieley, Mary Beth Peil, David Garrison & More Begin Previews in Terrence McNally’s THE VISIT on March 26
New York City Blizzard Does Not Deter Broadway Icon Chita Rivera From Performing in Concert Taping for THIRTEEN’s Great Performances Series
Joe Mantegna, Delta Burke, Gerald McRaney, President Bill Clinton and More Remember Meshach Taylor
Geoffrey Holder, Artist, Actor, Dancer, Choreographer, Two-Time Tony Award-winning Director and Costume Designer for The Wiz, Dies at 84; Son Pens Intimate Account of Last Days
Celebrating my Mom – AN ACTIVE VISION: BEVERLY UMEHARA…LABOR ACTIVIST…1945-1999
Golden Globe Winner James Shigeta, Veteran of Film and TV, Dies at 85; Excerpts of 2007 A/P/A Institute Q & A with Sukhdev Sandhu
Remembering Civil Rights Activist Yuri Kochiyama, 1921-2014
Ruby Dee, Actress and Activist, 1922 – 2014
Fred Korematsu, American Hero and Civil Rights Activist Dies at 86
Two-time Tony nominee André De Shields, GREY’S ANATOMY star Sandra Oh, Kimberly Lawson, Donica Lynn, Tony Mhoon, Doug Peck, Robert Reddrick, Anjali Bhimani and More set for 2015 IGNITION Festival of New Plays at Victory Gardens Theater, July 16-19
Behind the Scenes of the Asian American Film Lab’s 72 Hour Shootout with Lia Chang, Garth Kravits, Evan Daves and Alicia Manns in HIDE AND SEEK
Photos: The 11th Annual 72 Hour Shootout Filmmaking Launch Party at The Korea Society; TWO FACES is this year’s theme
Photos: Traveling through the mouth of the Dragon with BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA’s James Hong, Peter Kwong, Lia Chang, Gerald Okamura, George Cheung, Al Leong, Jeff Imada, James Lew, Gary Goldman, Eric Lee
Drumhead Magazine: Living Colour Drummer Will Calhoun, Photos by Lia Chang
World Premiere Musical HAMILTON Transfers to Broadway; Previews begin July 13
Jose Llana and Hoon Lee to play King of Siam in Tony Award-winning production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s THE KING AND I
Ebony Jo-Ann Celebrates PLEASE SAVE YOUR LOVE FOR ME CD Release, with a concert at Ashford & Simpson’s Sugar Bar on July 15
Sutton Foster,Steven Pasquale, Brandon Victor Dixon, Miriam Shor, Renée Albulario, Raymond J. Lee, Kenita Miller and More in Encores! Off-Center’s THE WILD PARTY, July 15 – 18 at New York City Center
Photos: #EmptyMet Tour with Chief Digital Officer Sree Sreenivasan
China: Through the Looking Glass Exhibition Extended through September 7 at Metropolitan Museum
Photos:Lunch with Tony Winner Lea Salonga and George Takei, Stars of ALLEGIANCE
Award-winning Filmmaker Jennifer Phang’s Sci-Fi film ADVANTAGEOUS starring Jacqueline Kim, Ken Jeong and Samantha Kim, available on Netflix and iTunes
Photos: Garth Kravits, Michael Keyloun, Klea Blackhurst, Eloise Kropp, Maxine Linehan, and Aaron Ramey in GROUNDED FOR LIFE at The York
July 25-26: #AAIFF2015 Spotlight on Arthur Dong- Screenings of THE KILLING FIELDS OF HAING S. NGOR and FORBIDDEN CITY, U.S.A, plus an on-stage conversation
2015 Asian American International Film Festival Lineup, July 23-Aug. 1
WORLD PREMIERE of THE TOP TEN 72 Hour Shootout films of 2015 at Village Cinema East on July 25
Coming to America through The Angel Island Immigration Station
Michael K. Lee, Christopheren Nomura, Greg Watanabe and More Join George Takei, Lea Salonga and Telly Leung in Broadway’s ALLEGIANCE; Full Cast Announced!
Two-Time Tony nominee André De Shields, Tony Winner Lillias White, ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK’s Lori Tan Chinn, Stephanie Powers, Georgia Engel & More Will Lead Broadway-Bound Musical GOTTA DANCE in Chicago
Crafting a Career
Click here for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.