Iconic Australian entertainer

Stuart Wagstaff passes away

 

Stuart Wagstaff AM, the legendary entertainer whose multi-faceted career was a pinnacle in the Australian landscape of theatre, television and music has passed away tonight peacefully at Greenwhich Hospital aged 90.

After 50 years in the business and over 40 of those years in Australia, Stuart had continued success in television, theatre and music and continues primarily with his first love, the theatre.

Stuart first came to Australia in 1958 to appear in the JC Williamson production, Not in the Book, after a successful early career in England which spanned weekly tours, a couple of West End appearances, some film and television.  In 1959, JC Williamson's put Stuart into the original My Fair Lady production with which he was associated for the next four and a half years, the last two and half playing Professor Henry Higgins, through all the Australian and New Zealand capital cities.  Following this he took over the male lead in the stage musical The Sound of Music.

In 1964 he appeared as the host of the Channel 7 variety show Studio 'A' and in 1965 he replaced the late Eric Baume as the "Beast" on the Channel 7 daytime show, Beauty & The Beast.  This production was to establish him as one of Australia's firm television favourites.  During this two and a half year period with Beauty & The Beast, he also appeared in leading roles in several stage productions including There's a Girl in My Soup, Present Laughter, Private Lives and several theatre restaurant revues.

In 1968 he became host of a major "Tonight" show on the Seven Network and later transferred to the Nine Network in the same type of format.  During the following three years he hosted several shows on the Nine Network, including In Melbourne Tonight, The Sound of Music and a regular late night interview show.

After a 3 year stint in Hollywood, working in film and television he returned to Australia in 1975 and was immediately kept busy with TV appearances all over the country, including being a regular panelist on Channel 9's Celebrity Squares, then two years as permanent panelist on Channel 10's Blankety Blanks, plus seven seasons as the host/presenter on the ABC's Stuart Wagstaff's World Playhouse.

Apart from television he was active in his first love, the theatre.  In late 1979 Stuart appeared again as Professor Higgins in My Fair Lady and a successful national tour followed, in which production he was also co-producer.  About this time he also produced Sydney and Melbourne seasons of the American stage comedy Father's Day.  In the 1980’s Stuart toured as the Narrator in the highly successful Rocky Horror Show.

1982 saw the production of Noises Off and this too, with Stuart in the lead, had a very successful national tour.  In 1983 he played the lead in Blithe Spirit at Marian Street Theatre in Sydney and then went on to host the Midday Movie and Friday Night Movies on the Seven Network for two years.

Guest roles in television continued throughout in such shows as G.P, Rafferty's Rules, A Country Practice, All Saints and others.  Stuart appeared often on Midday and was regularly asked to appear on Good Morning Australia.

The late 1980s and the 1990s saw Stuart on stage with Sydney seasons and subsequent tours of Noises Off (again), Black Comedy, The Winslow Boy, Lend Me A Tenor and in Gershwin's musical, Crazy For You.

More recently, Stuart appeared in the role of Old Cookson in the spectacular theatrical production of Pan at the Capitol Theatre, as well as taking on the role of Mr Bronlow in Cameron Mackintosh’s production of Oliver! 

Stuart Wagstaff actively supported many charities, most notably Varity and the Actors benevolent Fund.. Stuart was created a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) on the 26th January 1998 in recognition of this service to the community.

Information on a memorial will be forthcoming.

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