There is a delightful surprise in store for any of you who can manage to get to the Davenport’s 75-seat Loft Theatre to watch Ed Dixon’s one-man play in which he brings to vivid life the late great character star George Rose. It matters not whether you ever saw Mr. Rose on stage during his glorious reign in American comic and musical theatre during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.
He arrived here from his native England in 1946 to tour with the Old Vic, but he returned 15 years later as The Common Man in Robert Bolt’s A Man For All Seasons, and he never left. In The Mystery of Edwin Drood, My Fair Lady, The Pirates of Penzance, and My Fat Friend he was nominated for various important awards, and he won the Tony for Best Actor in a Musical twice.
Rose was eccentric, gifted, lived his life to the fullest, and ended that life tragically in the Dominican Republic where he had a vacation home, where his relationship with a young boy whom he adopted and considered his heir, led to a lethal beating by the boy himself and by his family.
Ed Dixon, an excellent character actor, who has been performing with distinction for 40 years, has written himself a role in which he spends 90 minutes discussing his close friendship with George Rose. To do so he presents us with hilarious tales of his own shared visits with his friend as well as with the likes of John Gielgud, Laurence Olivier, and Ralph Richardson, all of whom he inhabits as he shares with us gossip, incident and innuendo.
All through the evening he continues to capture, as a clever caricature artist, others whose paths crossed his own. And he masterfully lets us see and hear the look and sound of George Rose himself as he gives us bits of his work as the model of a Modern Major General, Alfie Doolittle, and Edwin Drood’s Master of Ceremonies. But there was hardly a season when Rose didn’t appear on Broadway or onscreen (his Pirates of Penzance was filmed two years after its Broadway run). Mr. Dixon has smoothly mixed memories of stages he shared with Rose, along with others of social encounters, in which he plays all the roles.
Eric Schaeffer has directed with aplomb, and does double-duty as set designer, placing Mr. Dixon center stage in a well worn arm chair into which he settles between strolls backstage (curtain rising ropes cover the back of the stage) and Chris Lee has designed a lighting scheme that rises and falls to meet the demands of the material throughout the evening.
This package began life in January 2016 at Signature Theatre in Washington where Schaeffer is Artistic Director. It’s almost impossible to think of anyone else playing it, for Ed Dixon was a participant and in his work as playwright and as actor he presents the long and precious friendship he shared with his subject. He was often there when many of the encounters took place, and when he wasn’t, he is here reporting with great clarity whatever it was that Rose reported to him. His ability to catch the essence of the celebrated artists who populate his play is uncanny and I recommend this lovely piece of work to all who have love for the theatre and for the artists who consistently enrich our lives. George Rose was one of those, and Ed Dixon has brought him back to us with a good ear and the mastery of a craft he’s been honing for over 40 years.
Running Time: 90 minutes, with no intermission.
Georgie: My Adventures with George Rose plays through April 15, 2017, at The Loft at the Davenport Theatre – 354 West 45th Street (between 8th & 9th Avenues, in New York City. For tickets, call Telecharge at (212) 239-6200, or purchase them online.
‘Georgie: My Adventures with George Rose’ at Signature Theatre reviewed by David Siegel on DCMetroTheaterArts.