by Roseann Cane
To call Ed Dixon a storyteller is like calling George Rose an actor. Both descriptors are true, yet they don’t begin to convey the seismic ingenuity of either man.
Ed Dixon has had, and continues to have, a rich, multifaceted career in the theater as a performer and a playwright. He made his Broadway acting debut in 1971 in No, No, Nanette, starring Ruby Keeler and directed by Busby Berkeley. Within six months he opened Washington, DC’s Kennedy Center as a soloist in Leonard Bernstein’s Mass, a role he would reprise at the Metropolitan Opera. Just a few of his Broadway credits include Belasco in King of Schnorrers; Cardinal Richelieu in The Three Musketeers; and a role he played more than 1700 times, Thenardier in the original company of Les Misérables. He wrote (and this is just a sampling) Richard Cory (with A.R. Gurney), the musical Cloak and Dagger, and the comic thriller Whodunit… The Musical. He’s been nominated for a slew of awards, and won more than a few, including this year’s 62nd Annual Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Solo Performance for Georgie: My Adventures With George Rose, which is playing a limited engagement at Barrington Stage.
(Full disclosure: because I work as an actor and director in this region, I have a policy not to review any shows at theaters where I have performed, or where my friends perform or direct. Ed Dixon and I met electronically through Larry Murray, the late and much-loved founder of BerkshireOnStage.com. In 2012, I’d posted on Larry’s Facebook page a video of George Rose singing “I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major General,” mentioning how very much I loved Rose’s work, and Ed contacted me to describe his profound admiration of Rose, and I’ve followed Ed’s career ever since, although we didn’t meet in person until just after his opening-night performance of “Georgie.”)
George Rose (1920-1988) was an English actor who, after four years with the Old Vic, made his Broadway debut in 1946, and spent much of the ‘40s and ‘50s acting in New York City and London’s West End. In 1961, he co-starred in A Man for All Seasons, first in the West End, then in New York, establishing himself as a widely hailed presence on the New York stage and in film. Rose would spend most of his remaining years living in New York City.
Dixon met Rose in the early 1970s, while both were appearing in a national tour of The Student Prince. It is at this point where Dixon begins recounting the story of his relationship with Rose, who would become his mentor, his friend, and his confidante.
To see Ed Dixon on the St. Germain Stage, with only a ghost light, a wing chair, and a pile of books, is to experience a cast of thousands (well, maybe hundreds), with Dixon and Rose in the leading roles. Dixon seems to effortlessly bring forth his own young self, Rose, and other theater folk, Lawrence Olivier, John Gielgud, Edith Evans, Richard Burton, and Ralph Richardson, to name a few. He is, at turns, riotously funny, frighteningly sad, and wildly eccentric, much as he describes his mentor. In this splendid salute to an old friend who would ultimately turn Dixon’s world inside out, it is a privilege to witness nothing less than a transformation of Ed Dixon as he finds his way to forgiving his old friend, and understanding the truth while treasuring all that was good in their relationship.
I vividly remember reading 68-year-old George Rose’s obituaries. His death at his second home in the Dominican Republic was chilling and mysterious. Murdered by his adopted Dominican son and heir, the boy’s biological father, his uncle, and a friend, the New York newspaper accounts hinted at something darker at play in Rose’s demise. We accompany Ed Dixon on his descent into the darkness, his gradual ascent into the light, and what an extraordinary voyage it is.
Georgie plays only through September 3 at Barrington Stage. While I’m certain this stunning one-man show will play in many other cities, it would be a shame for you, if you’re a theater lover, to miss it while it’s nearby.
Barrington Stage Company presents Georgie: My Adventures With George Rose written by and starring Ed Dixon, directed by Eric Schaeffer. Production Stage Manager Leslie Sears. Performances August 30-September 2, 7:30pm; September 2-3, 3:00pm; St. Germain Stage at the Sydelle and Lee Blatt Performing Arts Center (36 Linden Street). Tickets: $15-$48. Barrington Stage Box Office: (413) 236-8888 or online at www.barringtonstageco.org