July three, 2015, was a heartbreaking day for many individuals who work within the theater.
That afternoon, they obtained an e-mail from Rick Elice, the Tony-nominated co-writer of “Jersey Boys,” letting them know that his companion of 33 years, Roger Rees, had glioblastoma — “a really s–tty mind most cancers,” as Elice put it.
“He’s been battling it since October, when on a gorgeous fall day, he began strolling into folks and issues — and our lives modified endlessly,” Elice wrote. “There isn’t any treatment.”
Rees, one of many most interesting actors of his technology, died per week later, solely a short while after making his remaining stage look, in John Kander and Fred Ebb’s “The Go to.” He was 71.
That summer season, Elice started writing a memoir about their life collectively. “Discovering Roger: An Improbably Theatrical Love Story” comes out on Tuesday. Whereas it begins with that unhappy e-mail, it’s additionally stuffed with pleasure, wit and appeal, the very qualities that made Rees such a beloved determine within the theater and on TV, the place he made a memorable Lord John Marbury on “The West Wing” and Robin Colcord on “Cheers.”
Elice, who’s at present writing “The Cher Present” for, effectively, Cher, is donating all earnings from the e-book to the Actors Fund, of which he’s a trustee.
He fell for Rees after he noticed him within the authentic manufacturing of the Royal Shakespeare Firm’s “The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby” on Broadway. A struggling actor again then, Elice wasn’t completely satisfied that the British had been taking jobs from People. He led a protest in opposition to the present — till a buddy persuaded him to see it.
“It’ll change your life,” the buddy informed him.
As Elice writes, “By the point the play’s over, greater than eight hours later, I’ve realized 1,000,000 occasions over that my buddy was fairly proper. Being within the theater that day has profoundly modified my life.”
Elice wrote Rees a “mash word,” dropped it off on the theater — and by no means acquired a reply. However a 12 months later, when he was working as a copywriter for a Broadway advert company, Elice noticed Rees on the costume rehearsal for “Cats.” (Elice was engaged on the present’s advert marketing campaign; Rees was there visiting Trevor Nunn, his “Nickleby” director.)
They’d one date earlier than Rees headed again to London to star in Tom Stoppard’s “The Actual Factor.” A couple of weeks later, Elice went to London to see the play. Rees picked him up on the airport, drove him to his mom’s home and mentioned, “I’ve to go do the matinee now. Goodbye.”
“I’m sitting there on the kitchen desk with this beautiful little British woman, and she or he says, ‘So who’re you and what are you doing right here?’” Elice tells The Put up. “I informed her I had no alternative however to return.”
Mrs. Rees eyed him and mentioned, “You’re not going to mess him about, are you?” — which, as Elice says, “is a really British method of claiming, “Don’t f–okay with my son.”
“My plan is to, um, observe him round for the remainder of my life,” Elice mentioned.
Mrs. Rees relaxed, and “very quickly I grew to become a part of the household,” Elice says.
“In some ways, Roger saved my life,” the 60-year-old provides. “I used to be a child, and the sexual revolution was very a lot on my thoughts, let’s say. I entered right into a monogamous relationship with Roger simply on the time each single homosexual man was liable to getting AIDS.”
Elice had a hand in saving Rees’ life, too. Within the early ’80s, Rees was an alcoholic. One evening, driving dwelling from a London theater, that they had an argument about his consuming.
‘In some ways, Roger saved my life.’
“Roger had had just a few and, , you’re not presupposed to drive drunk, as I used to be telling him when he drove us into the railing of the Albert Bridge,” Elice says. “The Thames was beckoning us a little bit too strongly.”
The police arrived, and Elice acquired Rees and his automotive dwelling. The subsequent day, Rees had no reminiscence of the incident.
“I suppose this can be a good time to cease consuming,” Rees informed Elice.
Aside from one drink after his mom’s funeral, Rees by no means touched alcohol once more — and credited Elice with serving to him kick the behavior.
Nothing, sadly, might save Rees from that “very s–tty” mind most cancers.”
He died at dwelling with Elice, whom he married in 2011, by his facet.
“You understand, earlier than I met Roger, I used to be an incurable romantic,” Elice says. “After which I met him, and I used to be cured.”
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