An actor one generation will remember as the uppity Robin Colcord on Cheers, and another will recognize as the foppish Sheriff of Rottingham in Robin Hood: Men in Tights, Roger Rees, has died at age 71.
Roger reportedly passed away after a brief illness that required him to leave a role on Broadway in late May for an undisclosed medical procedure. The Associated Press said Rees died after a brief battle with cancer, Friday night at his home in New York City.
The production that closed out Roger’s illustrious and lengthy career was The Visit; his co-star, Chita Rivera, expressed grief at his sudden passing.
“The world has lost a great actor, gentleman and soul. I have lost a beautiful new friend, one I was looking forward to spending exciting valuable time with.”
His career was a long and critically-acclaimed one, and though many people will recognize his face from TV and films, Rees was most prolific on the stage.
A Welshman, Roger was born in Aberystwyth, Wales in 1944, and began his career as an artist, according to the Irish Independent. In the 1960s he turned to acting and joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1967. He spent more than 20 years there. A resident of the U.S. for 25 years, Rees also directed the Williamstown Theatre Festival in Massachusetts for four years, ending in 2007, People added.
ROGER REES Our only comfort is the video of Nicholas Nickleby in which Roger can shine forever.— Ian McKellen (@IanMcKellen) July 12, 2015
I'm so shocked . RIP Roger Rees. Truly a world-class actor who was beyond brilliant in Mel 's film. pic.twitter.com/avYWXR4jU5— Richard Lewis (@TheRichardLewis) July 11, 2015
His most well-known theater credit was with the Shakespeare Company, for the title character in The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby; Roger played that part in England and Broadway. He won two awards for the part — an Olivier Award, a Tony, and then received an Emmy nod when the production was adapted to TV.
Nicholas Nickleby director Trevor Nunn lauded the late actor, calling him “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.”
Rees’ other Tony nominations recognized his work in Indiscretions and Peter and the Starcatcher (which his husband, Rick Elice, wrote). He also appeared in The Addams Family, Uncle Vanya, The Rehearsal, The Red Shoes, and London Assurance, all on Broadway.
But there are three roles that will make Roger Rees instantly recognizable. In the 1980s sitcom Cheers, he played Rebecca Howe’s (Kirstie Alley) love interest, snob Robin Colcord. Then in the 1990s, he showed audiences his silly side with his portrayal of the Sheriff of Rottingham in Mel Brook’s goofy take on the Robin Hood legend. And in The West Wing, he played British ambassador Lord John Marbury. You may also recognize him from The Scorpion King and The Pink Panther.
Rees is survived by his husband, Rick.
[Photo Courtesy Twitter]