I just saw him only recently on Broadway in “The Visit” and he was playing the man Chita Rivera’s Claire Zachanassian, the richest woman in the world had come back to their hometown in the German/Swiss Alps to kill. The plot is she buys the townspeople’s co-operation to kill him, because he rejected her years ago when they were both young and in love.
Rees made that role believable and you felt for his plight. Grizzled and worn, he was nowhere near the young, handsome Nicholas Nickleby, which is where I first saw him on Broadway)see above^). You worried about his frail character’s health in “The Visit” He seemed like a ghost already. So I was not surprised when I heard that he had left the show even before its’ precipitous closing right after the Tonys. And now, he’s suddenly gone.
He was dazzling as the young Nickleby, the absolute paragon of a Dickens hero.
I remember so well, Ian McKellen, now Sir Ian, telling me in the cafe of the Circle, a Fringe Theater stronghold in London’s South bank area, in the ’70s. He said, “I’ve just seen one of the most wonderful plays I’ve ever seen at the Royal Shakespeare Company!” I asked him what it was. And he said “Nicholas Nickleby!” and I could hardly believe him. An unwieldy, secondary Dickens novel turned successfully into a stage play? I didn’t see it, although the critics and the crowds were raving.I didn’t see it until it came to Broadway and I myself has also moved back to America, but yes, it was true.
“Nicholas Nickleby” with a bare stage and only the costumed actors playing everything, including a stage-coach, was absolutely what McKellen said it was. And Roger was its’ handsome star. Rees had a very rich, varied career ever since that memorable launch.
I’ve followed his career with interest ever since. And was very proud of him when he came out as a gay man.
My sincere condolences to his surviving partner, friends and family.