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  • 23 Sep 2014

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'Anything Goes' brings Brooks home

Veteran stage, screen actor will reconnect with family and city


JEFF BROOKSWhen Jeff Brooks visits Portland — usually to see family, but in October it’ll be because of work as an actor — he always makes a point to visit and eat a meal at his sister’s restaurant.

That would be Fonda Rosa, a Mexican eatery on Northeast 28th Avenue, just north of Burnside. Brooks’ brother-in-law and sister, Hugo and Terri Hernandez, own the place.

“It’s a wonderful Mexican restaurant. Hugo’s mother started it,” Brooks says.

Consider Brooks one of Portland’s fortunate sons, someone who has gone on to high-level acting and keeps coming back. He plays the Purser in “Anything Goes,” the Cole Porter classic from 1934, Oct. 2 to 6 at Keller Auditorium. It’ll be his third time performing in Portland over the years — he played Cogsworth in “Beauty and the Beast” for years, and also had a role in “Beyond Therapy,” a long time ago. It’s always fun for him to return to Portland, which serves as his hometown, considering he moved here at age 2.

Born in Vancouver, British Columbia, and still retaining Canadian citizenship despite living nearly his entire life in the United States, Brooks grew up in Southeast Portland and graduated from Cleveland High School in 1968. He took a year off, and went on a quintessential 1968 adventure. He and a friend hitchhiked to Mardi Gras.

“We did an ‘Easy Rider’ thing, and I was Dennis Hopper,” he says, chuckling. “My friend was tall with dark hair, and I was short with blond hair.

“We both had long hair and beards. Later, I went to the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, and got chased around by police.”

He attended Portland State University for a few years, before earning a scholarship to go to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 1972. A career had been born. He moved with his then-girlfriend to New York City in 1975, living in Manhattan and then Montclair, N.J., and doing all sorts of acting work, everything from Broadway to “Barney” and “Law and Order” several times.

He and his wife, Sherry Anderson, are both actors, and they have a son (Sam) attending George Washington University and another (Henry) entering high school.

Brooks, 63, has visited family in Portland several times throughout the years. But his acting world remains in New York City.

His role as Cogsworth brought him some fame. But he says playing Purser is a lot of fun. “Anything Goes” is a musical comedy about the lovers, liars and clowns on a trans-Atlantic cruise aboard the S.S. American. It’s accompanied by many Porter hits — “You’re the Top,” “Friendship,” “I Get a Kick Out of You,” “It’s De-Lovely,” “Blow, Gabriel, Blow,” and “Anything Goes.”

“I’ve done terrific roles on Broadway, but this score in unbelievable,” Brooks says. “People have heard all these songs for many years. The wit and sophistication of them ...”

In the Purser role, which covers for criminals/celebrities Moonface Martin and Elisha Whitney.

Brooks says he tries to do many television shows. But, the problem is, such as with “Law and Order,” producers try to spread out your work, so as to not to confuse viewers with the actor playing different characters.

His heart has been with Broadway, however. Roundabout Theatre Company’s “Anything Goes,” which won the 2011 Tony Award for “Best Revival,” ends Nov. 17.

In Portland, show times are 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, Oct. 2 to 4; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 5; and 1:30 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 6, all at Keller Auditorium, 222 S.W. Clay St. Tickets start at $29 and can be purchased by phone (503-241-1802) and online www.BroadwayAcrossAmerica.com.