Alec McCowen, Broad­way star, dies at 91

Cape Breton Post - - IN MEMORIAM -

Alec McCowen, a West End and Broad­way star who had global suc­cess with a one-man show about the life of Je­sus, has died. He was 91.

Tal­ent agency Con­way van Gelder Grant con­firmed his death in a tweet. The Guardian and Daily Tele­graph news­pa­pers said he died on Mon­day.

Born in Tun­bridge Wells, south of Lon­don, on May 26, 1925, McCowen trained at the Royal Academy of Dra­matic Art and per­formed for troops with the En­ter­tain­ment Na­tional Ser­vice As­so­ci­a­tion at the end of World War II.

He per­formed in Lon­don and New York through the 1950s be­fore join­ing the Old Vic Com­pany _ along­side Judi Dench and Mag­gie Smith _and then the Royal Shake­speare Com­pany.

He was a notable Mer­cu­tio in Franco Zef­firelli’s “Romeo and Juliet’’ at the Old Vic in 1960, and a witty Fool along­side Paul Scofield’s king in direc­tor Peter Brook’s “King Lear’’ at the RSC in 1962.

In 1969, he gained the first of three Tony Award nom­i­na­tions as a failed priest who fan­ta­sizes he is the pope in “Hadrian the Sev­enth.’’

He also played the psy­chi­a­trist who treats a teen ac­cused of mu­ti­lat­ing horses in Peter Shaf­fer’s “Equus’’; in 1973, he was Henry Hig­gins op­po­site Diana Rigg’s El­iza Doolit­tle in “Pyg­malion.’’

A few years later he mem­o­rized a large chunk of the New Tes­ta­ment and turned it into an ac­claimed one-man per­for­mance of “St. Mark’s Gospel.’’ He per­formed it around the world, in­clud­ing at the White House for Pres­i­dent Jimmy Carter.

A one-man show about the writer Rud­yard Ki­pling also went to Broad­way in the 1980s.

Other ma­jor roles in­cluded an el­derly mis­sion­ary who returns from Africa to un­set­tle his Ir­ish fam­ily in Brian Friel’s “Danc­ing at Lugh­nasa’’ in 1990; a hostage in Le­banon in Frank McGuin­ness’ “Some­one Who’ll Watch Over Me’’ in 1992: and Pros­pero in a Sam Men­des-di­rected “Tem­pest’’ for the Royal Shake­speare Com­pany in 1993.

For all his ac­claim in clas­si­cal and dra­matic roles, McCowen once said he “I wanted to be an en­ter­tainer, not an ac­tor, when I was young. I wanted to be Jack Benny.’’

Though best known as a stage ac­tor, McCowen ap­peared in more than two dozen films.

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