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Roger Rees

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Roger Rees
Rees in 2004
Born(1944-05-05)5 May 1944
Died10 July 2015(2015-07-10) (aged 71)
New York City, U.S.
Occupation(s)Actor, director
Years active1975–2015
(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.

He was widely known to American television audiences for playing the characters Robin Colcord in Cheers and Lord John Marbury in The West Wing. Americans also know him as the Sheriff of Rottingham in Mel Brooks' Robin Hood: Men in Tights.

Early life[edit]

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 and his parents moved to Balham, London, where he grew up. 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]


Rees at Florida State University in 1985

Rees continued 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.

Rees began to work in television during the 1980s, appearing opposite Laurence Olivier in The Ebony Tower (1984). That same year, Rees portrayed Fred Hollywell in A Christmas Carol, which he also narrated, starring George C. Scott as Scrooge. In 1986, he played William Tyndale in God's Outlaw. From 1988 to 1991 he starred in the British sitcom Singles, with co-star Judy Loe. From 1989 to 1993, he appeared intermittently on the long-running American television series Cheers as the English business tycoon Robin Colcord, a love interest for Rebecca Howe (Kirstie Alley). He played British Ambassador Lord John Marbury in several episodes of The West Wing from 2000 to 2005.[2] His later television appearances also include My So-Called Life as substitute teacher Mr. Racine, 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]

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]

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 owing 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 City. 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[edit]

Rees lived in the United States for more than 25 years[2] and became a naturalized American citizen in 1989.[5] He converted to Judaism in the 1980s.[14] Rees married his partner of 33 years, playwright Rick Elice, in 2011, shortly after same-sex marriage in New York was legalised.[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[edit]

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 City 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] On 16 November 2015, Rees was inducted, posthumously, into the Broadway Theatre Hall of Fame.[22]



Year Title Role Notes
1983 Star 80 Aram Nicholas
1984 A Christmas Carol Fred - Scrooge's nephew
1986 God's Outlaw: The Story of William Tyndale William Tyndale
1991 If Looks Could Kill – Teen Agent Augustus Steranko
1992 Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot J. Parnell
1993 Robin Hood: Men in Tights Sheriff of Rottingham
1996 The Substance of Fire Max
Sudden Manhattan Murphy
1997 Trouble on the Corner Mr. McMurtry
1998 Next Stop Wonderland Ray Thornback
1999 A Midsummer Night's Dream Peter Quince
The Bumblebee Flies Anyway Dr. Croft
2000 BlackMale Bill Fontaine
2001 3 A.M. Priest
2002 Return to Never Land Edward (voice)
The Scorpion King King Pheron
Frida Guillermo Kahlo
The Emperor's Club Mr. Castle
2004 The Tulse Luper Suitcases, Part 2: Vaux to the Sea Tulse Luper
The Tulse Luper Suitcases, Part 3: From Sark to the Finish Tulse Luper
Going Under Peter
Crazy Like a Fox Nat Banks
2005 Game 6 Jack Haskins
A Life in Suitcases Tulse Luper
The New World Virginia Company Representative Uncredited
2006 The Pink Panther Raymond Larocque
East Broadway Andrew Barrington Sr.
The Treatment Leighton Proctor
Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties Mr. Hobbs
The Prestige Owens
2007 The Invasion Yorish
2008 The Narrows Professor Reyerson
2010 Happy Tears Antiques Dealer
2011 Almost Perfect Kai Lee
Portraits in Dramatic Time Himself
2014 Affluenza Mr. Carson
2015 Survivor Dr. Emil Balan Final film role


Year Title Role Notes
1975 The Place of Peace Willy television movie
1982 The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby Nicholas Nickleby televised RSC production
1984 Tales of the Unexpected James Howgill episode "The Reconciliation"
A Christmas Carol Fred Holywell / narrator television movie
1988–1989 Singles Malcolm 14 episodes
1989–1993 Cheers Robin Colcord 17 episodes
1990 The Young Riders Tyler Dewitt episode "Lady for a Night"
1991–1993 The Legend of Prince Valiant Rathburn / Lord Theobine [voices] 3 episodes
1992 Charles and Diana: Unhappily Ever After Prince Charles television movie
P.J. Sparkles Betty [voice] television movie
1993 The Tower Mr. Littlehill television movie
1994 Mighty Max Additional voice [voice] episode "Around the World in Eighty Arms"
1994–1995 M.A.N.T.I.S. Dr. John Stonebrake main cast, 22 episodes
1994 My So-Called Life Vic Racine episode "The Substitute"
1995 The Possession of Michael D. Robin Banks (hypnotist) television movie
Gargoyles Prince Malcolm [voice] episodes "Long Way to Morning" and "Vows"
Phantom 2040 Ikon [voice] episode "The Sins of the Fathers: Part One"
1996 Titanic J. Bruce Ismay television miniseries
1997 Boston Common President Harrison Cross 8 episodes
Liberty! The American Revolution Thomas Paine 5 episodes
Extreme Ghostbusters The Piper (voice) episode "The Pied Piper of Manhattan"
Damian Cromwell's Postcards from America Damian Cromwell
1999 Double Platinum Marc Reckler television movie
2000 The Crossing Hugh Mercer television movie
2000–2005 The West Wing Lord John Marbury 5 episodes, recurring cast
2001 Oz Jack Eldridge episode "Medium Rare"
2002 The Education of Max Bickford Dan Franklin episode "The Bad Girl"
2003 Law & Order Headmaster Wyatt Scofield episode "Kid Pro Quo"
2005–2006 Related Bob's Dad episodes "Have Yourself a Sorelli Little Christmas" and "Sisters are Forever"
2007 Grey's Anatomy Dr. Colin Marlow 3 episodes
2009 Law & Order: Criminal Intent Duke DeGuerin episode "Alpha Dog"
2009–2013 Warehouse 13 James MacPherson 7 episodes
2010 The Cleveland Show (voice) episode "Brown History Month"
The Good Wife Dr. Todd Grossman episode "Nine Hours"
2012 Submissions Only Roger Rees episode "Y'all Were Great!"
2012–2014 Elementary Alistair Moore episodes "Flight Risk" and "No Lack of Void"
2013 The Middle Mr. Glover episode "The Smile"
2013–2014 It Could Be Worse Roger Goldstein episodes "Stuck with Me" and "Uncharted Territory"
2014 Forever Priest episode "Diamonds Are Forever"
2015 American Experience – The Pilgrims Governor Bradford episode "The Pilgrims"
2016 The Mayflower Pilgrims: Behind the Myth. Governor Bradford[23] posthumous release



  1. ^ "Roger Rees Biography (1944–)". filmreference.com.
  2. ^ a b c 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. ^ a b c d e f g h i "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. ^ a b 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" playbillvault.com, accessed 24 May 2015
  7. ^ "Roger Rees – Narrators – AudioFile Magazine". audiofilemagazine.com.
  8. ^ "Rees Leaving Williamstown Theatre Festival" iberkshires.com
  9. ^ BWW News Desk. "Roger Rees to Replace Nathan Lane in THE ADDAMS FAMILY". BroadwayWorld.com. Retrieved 12 July 2015.
  10. ^ "Roger Rees Extends THE ADDAMS FAMILY Run Through Closing on December 31". Broadwayworld.com. 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", playbill.com, 26 March 2015
  12. ^ Roger Rees to miss performances of The Visit, theatermania.com; accessed 12 July 2015.
  13. ^ "Biography of a Water Rat". GOWR.co.uk.
  14. ^ "How 'Peter and the Starcatcher' took flight – The Ticket". Jewish Journal. 26 November 2013.
  15. ^ "Roger Rees ramps up What You Will". theaterdogs.net. 19 July 2008.
  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. ^ BWW News Desk. "Roger Rees Memorial Set for September 21 at The New Amsterdam Theatre".
  22. ^ Gans, Andrew (21 September 2015). "9 Inductees, Including Julie Taymor & Late Roger Rees, Named for Theater Hall of Fame". Playbill. Retrieved 8 August 2023.
  23. ^ Rees, Jasper (27 November 2016). "The Mayflower Pilgrims: Behind the myth was a rigorous historical account told with clarity". The Telegraph (movie review). Archived from the original on 12 January 2022. Retrieved 29 November 2016.
  24. ^ Trowbridge, Simon (2010). "Roger Rees". A Biographical Dictionary of the Royal Shakespeare Company. Oxford, England: Editions Simon Creed. ISBN 978-0-9559830-2-3.
  25. ^ "Cymbeline". RSC Performance Database. Archived from the original on 8 July 2012. Retrieved 20 November 2011.
  26. ^ "The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby". RSC Database. Archived from the original on 8 July 2012. Retrieved 20 November 2011.
  27. ^ Edwards, Christopher (19 March 1988). "Trick of the light". The Spectator: 43–44.
  28. ^ Barclay, Alison (7 May 2010). "Sir Ian McKellen is mistaken for a tramp on a Melbourne bench between Waiting for Godot rehearsals". Herald Sun. Archived from the original on 14 June 2011. Retrieved 17 May 2010.
  29. ^ Andrew Gans (21 May 2012). "Herringbone, With Tony Winner BD Wong, Plays NYC May 21–22; Performances Will Be Recorded". PlayBill.
  30. ^ "The Winslow Boy". Roundabout Theatre. Archived from the original on 9 June 2015. Retrieved 19 July 2015.

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