Chris Peluso, Broadway actor who had roles in 'Mamma Mia!' and 'Wicked,' dies at 40

Chris Peluso, a stage actor who starred in Broadway’s “Mamma Mia!” and “Wicked,” as well as “Miss Saigon” in London’s West End, died this week. He was 40.

A year ago, it was publicly announced that the prolific actor had stepped away from performing to seek treatment for schizoaffective disorder. Peluso’s family confirmed his death to Playbill this week but did not disclose his cause of death.

The University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance, where Peluso studied before starting his stage career, also confirmed his death.

“The Michigan Musical Theatre family is heartbroken as we announce the passing of our dear family member/alum, the loving, charismatic, and divinely gifted Chris Peluso,” wrote Linda Goodrich, the department’s interim chair, in a statement posted Thursday on Instagram. “Our hearts go out to his family.”

Peluso made his Broadway debut in the 2004 Tony-winning revival of “Assassins” as an understudy for the part of the Balladeer. He continued to be a respected understudy for musicals including “Lestat” and the original-cast run of “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.” Peluso landed a starring role as a replacement during the 14-year run of “Mamma Mia!” playing the main character’s love interest, Sky. He later toured the U.S. performing as Fiyero in “Wicked” and had starring roles in the Broadway classics “Les Miserable” and “West Side Story.”

In 2015, Peluso moved to London to star as male lead Chris in the West End’s version of “Miss Saigon.” He was cast alongside Eva Noblezada, starring as Kim, who would go on to reprise the role in the Broadway revival a year later and land a 2017 Tony nomination. Peluso called his role in “Miss Saigon” the favorite of his career.

In interviews, Peluso spoke glowingly of his new life in London, lauding the city’s cuisine. In his downtime, he enjoyed walks with his dog. He also loved the ritual of doing physical and vocal warmups together with the entire acting company prior to performances, a custom he said was not done in the U.S. on Broadway. Now a seasoned veteran, he had grown comfortable onstage as a performer.

“I’m definitely in the moment of the song,” Peluso told radio host Alex Belfield in 2015. “I’ve performed now for 25 years, a long time … so honestly I’m comfortable in the circumstances now, where I can look out into an audience — in fact it energizes me, rather than weakens.”

The following year, Peluso starred in the 2016 West End revival of “Show Boat,” a musical he had connected with — particularly its song “Ol’ Man River” — when he was a young actor.

“The first time I heard it was a musical theater class when I was a freshman in college — I remember having a cassette tape, oh I’m old,” he said while laughing at himself during an interview with See Tickets. “I hit play on the cassette tape in my car and I just was crying, it was just beautiful.”

Peluso is survived, according to Today, by his wife, Jessica Gomes, and their two children, Aria Li Gomes-Peluso and Caio Lian Gomes-Peluso.

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