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Georgie: My Adventures with George Rose

George was a fifty year old effete English homo-sexual who made no bones about it. He made no bones about anything. He was also the most brilliant, intelligent, talented man I'd ever met... —Ed Dixon about George Rose
Ed Dixon (Photo: Carol Rosegg)
In a captivating one-man show, actor/playwright Ed Dixon makes no bones about his admiration for the late character actor, George Rose, personally and professionally. "When (George) turned his attention on you, you were being scrutinized by a fierce intelligence that was parsing and analyzing your every word, your knowledge, your inner workings," says Dixon in hs 90-minute tour-de-force tribute making its New York debut in The Loft at The Davenport Theater.

Directed by Eric Schaeffer, Dixon's animated remembrances of his friendship with the extravagantly theatrical Rose, form a loving portrait reaching peaks of hilarity and a depth of darkness. Rose, a two-time Tony Award Best Actor winner (The Mystery of Edwin Drood, My Fair Lady ), was undeniably dramatic.

He kept two mountain lions in his Greenwich Village apartment and traveled with them in his Winnebago. He performed on Broadway and the West End and shared with Dixon dishy observations about legends like Noel Coward, Ralph Richardson, Laurence Olivier and John Gielgud. ("John and Ralph were marvelous. Larry not so much. A bit of a bore actually").

Dixon is dressed in a black shirt and slacks. , Eric Schaeffer's bare theater look of pulley ropes features just one prop, a wing chair. Chris Lee's proscenium lighting helps Dixon become multi-characters in one man.

Now 68 years old, the same age George Rose was when he died, Dixon did not plan to become a character actor himself. Yet, watching Rose on stage nudged him toward comic character acting and he even played two of the roles defined by Rose —, the modern major-general in The Pirates of Penzance  and Alfred P. Doolittle in My Fair Lady.

In the early 1970's, Dixon was a "young and pretty" actor/singer touring in The Student Prince when Rose, an established English actor, joined the cast in a secondary role as Lutz. He was 30 years older than Dixon but the two formed a twenty-year friendship before Rose's horrendous ending.

Dixon was entranced by his mentor's eccentricities and comic brilliance that stole the show. "He had this uncanny ability to break through the fourth wall, the imaginary gulf that separates the actor from the audience... He had it in his contract that he could say anything he wanted—and he did—trying to crack us up while we were all standing at attention.

Dixon watched and was memorized by Rose. "His eyes… they seemed to come right out of his head and go out into the audience filled with twinkle and joy..." When Dixon asked him about that, Rose replied, "It's simple, dear. You just look at the lights. It's an old trick."

A fascinating storyteller, Dixon draws on his own acting experience, personal charm and obvious affection for the eccentric actor to share his encyclopedic collection of anecdotes. For most of the 90 minutes it's story after story —, funny, sentimental and heartrending with sudden breaks into song, a soft shoe or a march. Dixon shows his compelling story-telling prowess and also his joy in delivering Rose's back-biting gossip with razor-sharp delivery. Adding Rose's cadence and accents, Dixon transforms his voice and physical movements to sprint out of himself to Georgie to Gielgud to Gladys Cooper to Dame Edith Evans and back to Dixon. He did not imitate these theater great but copied Rose's versions. He portrayed a man of mischievous humor and expansive showmanship but also a man with a dark, self-centered side.

As Rose grew older, Dixon shows his repugnance when he learns of his friend's turn to sexual degradations in Rose's new home in the Dominican Republic. The last 20 minutes of his recollections shift to loathsome territory, drawing the audience into the appalling later years. Dixon finds himself pulled into the hellish aftermath and his revelations are brutally frank as he describes his dealing with the horror of Rose's last years and his climb back to normalcy. By the end, the cheeky Dixon from the top of the show is a drawn, teary old man.

Eric Schaeffer gives the stage to Ed Dixon to share with a tantalizing but depply flawed genius, a man you may never have heard of but will now long remember. For a short time you are entranced, shocked, sympathetic and ultimately gratified by a riveting, well-formed arc.

Dixon's performance captivates you from start to finish. What more can you ask from an outing at the theater?

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Georgie: My Adventures with George Rose
Playwright: Ed Dixon
Director: Eric Schaeffer
Cast: Ed Dixon
Set Design: Eric Schaeffer
Lighting Design: Chris Lee
Production Stage Manager: Megan E. Coutts
Running Time: 90 minutes. No intermission
Theatre: The Loft, Davenport Theatre, 354 West 45thStreet(212) 279-6200
Tickets: $69 to $79
Performances: Mon, Tues, Thurs at 7:30pm. Fri and Sat. at 8:00pm. Sat and Sun. matinees at 3:00pm
From 1/25/17. Opens: 02/1/17. Closes: 04/15/17
Review by Elizabeth Ahlfors based on performance 01/29/17

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