Your visit with us was much too short, Roger.

This past weekend, the theater lost one of its finest actors and finest gentlemen when Roger Rees passed away at the all too early age of 71.

Most people know Roger from his work on Cheers (just the thought of him as the foppish Robin Colcord makes me crack up to this day), but it was the stage where he made his home, winning a Tony for his role in the epic The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, and getting nominations for Shadowlands, Six Degrees of Separation, Indiscretions and as the co-director of Peter and the Starcatcher.

And I knew him from his work on this season’s The Visit.

“Knew him” is a bit of an exaggeration actually.  The truth is I didn’t know him all that well.  That’s why at the meet and greet on the very first day of rehearsal I walked up to him and said, “Hello, Roger, my name is Ken Davenport and I just wanted to . . . ”

“KEN,” He practically screamed, “I’m so happy to meet you!  I can’t believe we haven’t met before,” and he pulled me in for a hug.  Yeah.  Me, hugging Robin Colcord.

We chatted a bit about the show, and he told me how excited he was for it, and how he was so in love with the story . . . and how thankful he was that it was getting its shot on Broadway.  “This is what real theater is about, Ken.  This is what real theater is about,” he repeated.

I saw him from time to time at and around the show.  But that’s it.  No dinners or lunches or texts or anything.

But I tell you, in that brief exchange, I got a glimpse into the heart of Roger Rees.  And what a beautiful place it was.

Roger, you are what real theater is about.  You are.

And you’ll be missed.

 

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Comments
  • Michael Diamond says:

    Roger Reese was a wonderful actor and an outstanding person. I had the opportunity to work with him in London in 1982 on a musical at the Young Vic titled “Masquerade” based on the best-selling children’s book by Kitt Williams. In the musical Roger portrayed a hare. I am sure that anybody who loves and appreciates the work of Roger Reese will doubt that he was the most interesting hare ever to walk on any stage. It was truly a thrill to be working with him and to get to know him over the month-long rehearsal period directed by Frank Dunlop. If you go to Wikipedia and look up “Masquerade” you can read the entire story of the books strange journey and appreciate how my crossing paths with Roger was a unique theatrical experience in my career. Thank you Roger for your dedication to a project that unfortunately had more life off stage than it did in our run at the Young Vic. The show’s poster in my apartment will always remind me of how lucky I was to get to know you.

  • Kate Fuglei says:

    My husband, whose name is Ken LaZebnik, just happened to be in London when he was very young with nothing to do one evening and walked by the theatre that was just previewing a show no one knew anything about at the time…NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. He got tickets, saw it and it remains his all-time favorite theatrical experience. We have been fans of Roger Rees for all these years in whatever he appeared. He seemed to radiate goodness and such a humble spirit in addition to his prodigious and singular talent.

  • Anita Riggio says:

    What a beautiful legacy he leaves…a fabulous body of work, the respect of the entire Broadway community, and the love of his husband, family, and friends. A life cut short, but what a wonderful life his was.

  • Janet Miller says:

    I was thrilled that I taught a little tap to RR during his Cheers days. A delightful man, and a consummate theater artist. NN is my all time favorite, and I hanker to produce and direct it. My company did do A Man of No Importance inspired by his performance. We <3 Sir Roger.

  • Mark Graham says:

    His Hamlet at RSC in the 80’s… a very pensive Dane…is on my list of top ten memorable performances.

  • eva says:

    “A Man Of No Importance” is one of my favorite musicals and Nicolas is one of the best theatrical events. There was nothing he couldn’t do. He also could be seen in the audience at many a show. He will be sorely missed and I hope they dim or dimmed the lights for him. very sad.

  • David Merrick Jr says:

    A lovely post…

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