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George Rose in My Fair Lady

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George Rose in My Fair Lady#1
Posted: 7/24/20 at 11:45pm
When George Rose played Alfred P. Doolittle, he won the Tony. Not unexpected given the role is a great crowd pleaser and Rose was widely regarded as an excellent actor and showman. Whats very interesting about this though is that he won the Tony for Lead Actor rather than Featured Actor.
Theres some roles that border on supporting and lead, but Alfred Doolittle is very clearly a supporting part, one that doesnt even come close to being a lead. This makes Rose winning a lead Tony for the part strange, especially given Ian Richardson was nominated for the same show in the much, much bigger role of Henry Higgins, a performance that won him the Drama Desk when Rose went supporting there (where he also won).
Obviously Richardson was not a poorly received Higgins, so even though George Rose was an incredible showman, its kind of hard to imagine that he could beat Richardson since he was apparently giving an awards worthy performance in an actual leading role that gives the actor a lot more to do in both terms of the size of the role, and the overall depth and humor that an actor bring out of it.
So my question is, was George Rose really just that amazing in this production? Did he just nail every line and lyric and completely steal the show from the leads?
Anyone who saw this production, let me know what you thought of it, and if Rose really did deserve the leading Tony even over his shows actual leading man.
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Someone in a Tree2
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George Rose in My Fair Lady#2
Posted: 7/24/20 at 11:52pm
Nope, he was not all that amazing — likeable enough but George Rose never convinced you he was really that genuine Cockney character. He was nominated as lead because his name was above the title. I believe he won basically because of how beloved he was within the Bway community.
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George Rose in My Fair Lady#3
Posted: 7/24/20 at 11:52pm

I can't speak to his performance (happened long before I was born) but the Tony lead/featured distinction used to be less about the size of the role and more about the size of the star. I'm not sure the precise details of how this changed over time, but to this day, Tony eligibility is determined at first by whether the actor's name is billed above the title or below the title. Of course, today, producers petition the nominating committee so that actors in smaller roles who are billed above the title compete in featured categories and vice versa, and the Tony committee usually approves these petitions, but the default is still above the title = lead; below the title = featured.

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George Rose in My Fair Lady#4
Posted: 7/25/20 at 12:43am

Well i did see this production

I don't remember Ian Richardson. I don't even remember who played Eliza. But i do remember George Rose being a revelation. he was an an amazing performer!!

Yes he should have been supporting but he was memorable in anything  he was in.

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George Rose in My Fair Lady#5
Posted: 7/25/20 at 1:37am

What Ravenclaw said regarding billing is true. The option petition for category changes that would differ from the initial determination based on billing hadn't been introduced at that point in time. William Daniels actually refused his nomination for the original production of 1776 because the entire cast was billed below the title so he was not eligible for Best Actor and felt, rightly so, that John Adams was not a "featured" part in the show.

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George Rose in My Fair Lady#6
Posted: 7/25/20 at 8:12am

George Rose in My Fair Lady

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George Rose in My Fair Lady#7
Posted: 7/25/20 at 12:10pm

I've always held the conspiracy theory-- and yes, it is ridiculous, but I wouldn't put it past them-- that Michael Bennett and/or Gerry Schoenfeld and Bernie Jacobs bribed or bullied voters into not voting for Mako or Jerry Orbach just to see that PACIFIC OVERTURES and especially CHICAGO didn't win any major awards. There was a lot of hostility between parties that season. 

(Yes, I know PACIFIC OVERTURES won two design awards, but by major I mean acting, directing, et al.) 

 

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George Rose in My Fair Lady#8
Posted: 7/25/20 at 3:43pm

I saw all of the nominees in that category.  I have always wondered why George Rose won (I have a theory), as Ian Richardson was a solid Henry Higgins, although he did not have a lot of charisma.  

As with George Rose's, Jerry Orbach's role felt to me more like a large featured role than lead, particularly given his two co-stars.  I always saw Pacific Overtures as an ensemble piece, one in which Mako's role was not much larger than a number of other people on stage....and (at least at the performance I attended) the audience really did not like the show.

So, it was an uncharismatic, but solid, Higgins, and three arguably featured roles for a male lead.

I believe Rose won as a sort of apology for My Fat Friend.  In MFF, he was nominated for supporting, when he felt he really was in a lead role.  He rejected the nomination, citing that reason.  IMO he probably would have won the featured Tony, since the winner was Frank Langella in a Pulitzer Prize winning flop that, again IMO, was a bore that audiences did not respond to.  It only ran 9 weeks, if I remember correctly.

Re lead actor, who knows.  The category was for me VERY STRONG, with nominees including Jim Dale in Scapinoi (also a great comedy role), Peter Firth for Equus, Henry Fonda for Clarence Darrow, John Wood for Sherlock Holmes, and Ben Gazzara for Hughie.  John Kani and Winston Ntshona won jointly for Sizwi Banzi is Dead and The Island, two plays by Fugard.  I thought that Rose was wonderful in the role, but I did not see him fitting in with that group.  I probably would have voted for Jim Dale who for me was a revelation in the wonderfully silly Scapino.

We will never know for sure, but I did find it ironic that he complained when his large (arguably featured) role in MFF was categorized as featured, while he won a lead Tony for a definitely featured role as Alfred Doolittle.

In any event, it was a wonderful performance, full of joy, and the audience loved him and it.

Updated On: 7/26/20 at 03:43 PM
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George Rose in My Fair Lady#9
Posted: 7/25/20 at 5:17pm

There was a cast album of this production on Columbia. It's streamable...

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George Rose in My Fair Lady#10
Posted: 7/25/20 at 6:12pm
I saw this production of MFF several times and felt George Rse stole every scene he was in.
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George Rose in My Fair Lady#11
Posted: 7/25/20 at 6:12pm
I saw this production of MFF several times and felt George Rse stole every scene he was in.
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George Rose in My Fair Lady#12
Posted: 7/25/20 at 7:28pm

I agree with Dollypop. I was fortunate to see this production twice. My parents took me once and then it ended up my drama class went to see it too. George Rose stole every scene he was in, he was perfect! I also loved Ms. Andrea and Mr. Coote, repeating his take on the Pickering , was perfect.
 

It was also such a treat seeing the original set and costumes.

 

Everything about this revival was wonderful, but Mr. Rose's performance will always be the standard I put anyone doing this role and nobody, no matter how good they were, so far has measured up.

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George Rose in My Fair Lady#13
Posted: 7/25/20 at 9:07pm

I had the honor of interviewing Mako for The Sondheim Review (Spring 1998 ), so I got to ask him all about ''Pacific Overtures'' and what he thought about his Tony chances of winning. Mako said: ''I had run into [newspaper columnist] Earl Wilson and he told me that he had inside information that I was going to win. I said, ''Come on!'' I didn't place that much emphasis on the outcome, except I was renting a floor from Jerry Orbach, who had a brownstone, and he was also nominated for Best Actor in a Musical [for ''Chicago'}.''

Mako added: ''I thought Jerry would win. I didn't care for myself. If I got it, I'd have to give a speech. [George Rose] and Ian Richardson were also nominated for ''My Fair Lady,' but that was a revival, so I didn't think they stood a chance. But [George] won. Anyway, I got home late, about 2:30 in the morning. At 4:30, I heard Jerry Orbach shouting from the floor below, ''Hey, Mako! What the f&%# happened? I can't believe it. We lost to a f&%#-ing revival!''

If Mako had won, what would he have said? ''I wasn't going to accept it. I was going to refuse the Tony. Why? Asian-American actors have never been treated as full-time actors. We're always hired as part-timers. That is, [producers] call us when they need us [for only race-specific roles]. If a part was seen as too ''demanding,'' that part often went to a non-Asian. I refused to piggyback off the success of ''Pacific Overtures.'' If the audience wished to boo me, fine. I would've thanked the people I worked with, but I didn't feel I could accept the award as long as Asian-Americans were not treated [as equals].''

By the way, at the time the ''Pacific Overtures'' cast performed their number of ''The Advantages of Floating ...,'' on the telecast, Mako said: ''We already knew most of the awards had gone to ''A Chorus Line.'' I was really furious at how we were neglected. Before we went onstage, I said to the cast: ''Well, the verdict has been handed out. Does that mean we're losers? Hell, no! We're gonna give it our best, so get your butts in gear!'' And we did.''

Finally, Mako recalled running into some racism on Tony night:

''After the show, we had to walk back to the Winter Garden to get out of our costumes. As we were walking, and some of us were in Kabuki makeup, some of the people on the street were yelling, ''Hey, why don't you all go back to China?'' On the one hand, we felt we were making progress in the theater, but socially we were getting comments like that.''

Updated On: 7/25/20 at 09:07 PM
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George Rose in My Fair Lady#14
Posted: 7/26/20 at 12:48am

Dollypop said: "I saw this production of MFF several times and felt George Rse stole every scene he was in."

But it was a supporting performance.  Stanley Holloway was nominated for a Tony in the original production and NL Butz for supporting in the recent production.  

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George Rose in My Fair Lady#15
Posted: 7/26/20 at 12:06pm

Mako's comments mention that, at that time, appearing in a revival was disadvantageous for a Tony win.  That does not seem to be true anymore, but, looking back, that year was the 30th Tony Awards, and only one Leading Actor in a Musical had won for a revival at that point:  Phil Silvers in A Funny Thing Happened... .  

Nowadays, it doesn't seem to matter much, and for 7 consecutive years starting in 1994, the winner in this category was from a revival.  Things change.

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George Rose in My Fair Lady#16
Posted: 7/26/20 at 2:33pm
I wonder if Mako would have had a better or more rewarding career if he'd won the Tony. His later reinvention as one of the most beloved voice actors of the Western animation renaissance might not have happened if he had constant film and stage work; see also Mark Hamill for another incredibly successful career pivot of the sort.

The story of George Rose is fascinating but gets more and more uncomfortable the longer you look at it. On a related note, with J. K. Rowling's increasing revelation of her own bigotry and confused sexual politics, I can't help but wonder if this recolors her revelation that Dumbledore is gay as something less woke and more macabre than people thought in 2008. It's hard not to see shades of George Rose in the kindly, somewhat flamboyant but grandfatherly eccentric whose relationship with an orphan boy becomes increasingly intimate and personally involved. Sure, Dumbledore wasn't a pedophile, but his relationship with Harry did cross a number of boundaries and become increasingly predatory and manipulative.
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George Rose in My Fair Lady#17
Posted: 7/26/20 at 10:39pm

I don't think so!  Looking for something that is not there.

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George Rose in My Fair Lady#18
Posted: 7/26/20 at 10:52pm
On the topic of George Rose and sadness, it really is heartbreaking how he went. I don’t want to mention the details for anyone who doesn’t know, but it’s truly depressing how such a talented performer and charming man’s life ended that way.
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George Rose in My Fair Lady#19
Posted: 7/27/20 at 2:44am

''I wonder if Mako would have had a better or more rewarding career if he'd won the Tony.''

Sad to say, I doubt it. The leading roles and opportunities for Asian-American actors have been very rare on the Great White Way. Mako made his Broadway debut in ''Pacific Overtures'' (1976 ) and only got to return once in ''Shimada'' (1992 ), a short-lived flop with Ellen Burstyn and Ben Gazzara. Mako was the first Asian-American actor nominated for Best Actor in a Musical, and in the 44 years since that time, only two other actors of East Asian descent have been Tony-nominated: Lou Diamond Phillips (1996 ) and Ken Watanabe (2015 ), both for playing the king in ''The King and I.'' And none has won.

Welsh actor Jonathan Pryce won the Tony for playing the Engineer in ''Miss Saigon'' (1992 ). In the 2015  revival, however, the role was played by Jon Jon Briones, an Asian-American actor who was nominated for an Olivier Award in London. Re-creating his part in NYC brought Briones a Drama Desk nomination and a Theater World Award, but, ironically, NOT a Tony nomination. 

Updated On: 7/27/20 at 02:44 AM
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George Rose in My Fair Lady#20
Posted: 7/27/20 at 7:14pm

don't know how Dumbledore came up in this thread lol but the circumstances around Rose very much read like a Michael Jackson tell-all: brilliant performing talent with an affinity for exotic creatures and boys...

would've loved to have seen the production though. rarely see featured roles shine so brightly nowadays, or I guess pre-covid days

--

Adding that this thread touches on a lot of issues and theater seediness which is interesting to see. My parents saw Mako in Pacific Overtures. thought absolutely amazing. So much history and power and racism revealed in one tony season...

Updated On: 7/27/20 at 07:14 PM
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George Rose in My Fair Lady#21
Posted: 7/27/20 at 11:48pm

Adding that this thread touches on a lot of issues and theater seediness which is interesting to see. My parents saw Mako in Pacific Overtures.thought absolutely amazing. So much history and power and racism revealed in one tony season..."

The racism directed at the performers in PACIFIC OVERTURES as recounted by Mako just seems like it came from some bigoted jerks in Midtown. I'm not sure if there was an anti-Asian bias against the show, It think it was more an anti-Hal and Steve bias by "insiders." 

I think showbiz politics more than any sociopolitical discrimination played into that years awards. And yet, who's got the last laugh now? CHICAGO is a landmark and holds up better than CHORUS LINE, and so does PACIFIC OVERTURES. Those two shows, thought of as "inferior" in 1975-76, will last longer than the victor of the moment. 

 

 

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George Rose in My Fair Lady#22
Posted: 7/28/20 at 12:35am

Richardson is the best Higgins I've ever seen. Didn't see him on Broadway, but a few years later in a Houston production of the early 80's (82/83, IIRC). Infinitely superior to Rex Harrison in the film or any other Higgins I've seen on stage.

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George Rose in My Fair Lady#23
Posted: 7/28/20 at 8:24pm

jv92 said: "Adding that this thread touches on a lot of issues and theater seediness which is interesting to see. My parents saw Mako in Pacific Overtures.thought absolutely amazing. So much history and power and racism revealed in one tony season..."

The racism directed at the performers in PACIFIC OVERTURES as recounted by Mako just seems like it came from some bigoted jerks in Midtown. I'm not sure if there was an anti-Asian bias against the show, It think it was more an anti-Hal and Steve bias by "insiders."

I think showbiz politics more than any sociopoliticaldiscrimination played into that years awards. And yet, who's got the last laugh now? CHICAGO is a landmark and holds up better than CHORUS LINE, and so does PACIFIC OVERTURES. Those two shows, thought of as "inferior" in 1975-76, will last longer than the victor of the moment.




I actually watched a (professionally) taped version of PO last night on YouTube.  With Mako and the original cast.  I have to admit that I had the same reaction to it that I had 45 years ago.  I was bored out of my mind from the interminably long opening number until the last moment.  

I thought the production values were very creative, and the cast was excellent.  Sad to say, my first issue is that I really did not like the score.  I also simply did not have the patience for the deliberate pacing throughout much of the performance.  I wanted to scream to speed it up.  

I also saw a bootleg of A Little Night Music, whose quality was adequate at best.  Probably taped from the second seat on the outside in a box.  I did not love the production itself, but I still enjoyed much of the performance, especially Liaisons and Send in the Clowns.  My favorite number in the show is Weekend in the country, which was poorly done in this production, but I still enjoyed listening to the cast perform it.  From this performance, there was no question that Mme. Armfeldt died in the end, per an earlier subject on this board.

 

 

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George Rose in My Fair Lady#24
Posted: 7/28/20 at 9:06pm

I actually watched a (professionally) taped version of PO lastnight on YouTube. With Mako and the original cast. I have to admit that I had the same reaction to it that I had 45 years ago. I was bored out of my mind from the interminably long opening number until the last moment.

I thought the production values were very creative, and the cast was excellent. Sad to say, my first issue is that I really did notlike the score. I also simply did not have the patience for the deliberate pacing throughout much of the performance. I wanted to scream to speed it up.

I also saw a bootleg of A Little Night Music, whose quality was adequate at best. Probably taped from the second seat on the outside in a box. I did not love the production itself, but I still enjoyed much of the performance, especially Liaisons and Send in the Clowns. My favorite number in the show is Weekend in the country, which was poorly done in this production, but I still enjoyed listening to the cast perform it. From this performance, there was no question that Mme. Armfeldt died in the end, per an earlier subject on this board.


I LOVE Pacific Overtures (and the original staging, which was thankfully taped, as you saw, professionally for Japanese TV) but I completely understand people having difficulty with it. It's not for everyone. 

I think one's perception of NIGHT MUSIC depends on the production. People who did see that original production have said no other production has worked for them, and some productions make the show seem very boring. I think that the show needs a little splendor and opulence and frills visually, and people tend to be very keen on making the piece look like an Ingmar Bergman movie-- and not SMILES OF A SUMMER NIGHT, but his more abstract, moodier, philosophical ones. Also, there are few people who can play high comedy, and direct high comedy like the people involved in that original production. 

But that's another show and subject entirely. Forgive my rambling. 



"

 

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George Rose in My Fair Lady#25
Posted: 7/29/20 at 4:01pm

I totally agree!