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David Rogers, Broadway playwright who also wrote for television, opera and night clubs, as well as having authored five novels and many short stories, died on Wednesday in Westport, Conn. He was 85. Of his six Broadway shows, he was best known for his 1981 Tony- nominated musical "Charlie and Algernon," for which he wrote the book and lyrics, and which debuted in London starring Michael Crawford at the Queen's Theatre in 1979. Rogers was born in New York City on Dec. 15th, 1927. He fell in love with the theatre after his mother, Deborah, started taking him to see plays at a young age. His career began as a child actor on the radio, along side a young Beverly Sills on the Rainbow Hour, and he made his way to Broadway by the age of 17 to play Silvius in the 1945 production of "As You Like It." At the same age he sold his first written piece, "The Virgin Sturgeon" which was bought by Gourmet magazine. During the Korean War he was drafted and served in the army in the signal core. Upon his return, the GI bill allowed him to study at the Theatre Wing along side Jack Lemmon and Lee Marvin and to meet his mentor Nancy Hamilton. She championed David's work, submitting several of his sketches to the New Faces Revues which garnered him wonderful reviews and had him working with other such New Faces writers as Mel Brooks and Ronny Graham. He then contributed to the Zigfeld Follies, writing for such stars as Tallulah Bankhead, Bea Lillie, Bea Arthur, Carol Haney, and Hermione Gingold. He wrote the revue "Young At Heart" for the Crazy Gang in London's West End, and later had his play "Killing Jessica," starring Patrick McNee, produced there too.
After the war, he wrote for television on such shows as The Jackie Gleason Show and, later, The Carol Burnett Show. His play "From Here Inside My Head" was produced at Playwright's Horizons starring Hal Linden. And he spent decades writing over 45 plays and musicals published by Dramatic Publishing Co. including adaptations of "Flowers For Algernon, " "Tom Jones," and "Brave New World, the musicals "Cheaper By the Dozen, " and "The Hobbit," and original pieces, "Here and Now" and "Soft Soap." He was also commissioned to write the opera "The Hero" by Lincoln Center, for which he won the Prix D'Italia, and collaborated over the years with such composers as John Kander, Alan Mencken, and Charles Strouse. All five of his published novels have been translated and printed worldwide and include "Somewhere There's Music" and "The Great American Alimony Escape."
In the mid 1980's Rogers returned to acting in the Broadway production of "Doubles" starring Austin Pendleton and Ron Leibman, "Broadway" directed by George Abbot and " A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" starring David Allan Grier. He had many starring roles in regional theatres around the country and Off Broadway, as well as touring his own one-man show, "Naked On Broadway."
Recently he dedicated himself to helping new playwrights and actors learn their craft at the Theatre Artists Workshop of Westport and was a long time board member of the Westport Arts Commission.
He is survived by his wife of 50 years, June L. Walker, his daughters, Dulcy Rogers Bader and Amanda Rogers, his son- in -law Diedrich Bader, and four grandchildren: Lucy, Sebastian, Dashiell, and Ondine. A memorial will be announced later this summer.
Published in StamfordAdvocate on June 14, 2013