Noted Canadian artist and singer Michael Burgess has died following a battle with cancer. Burgess had been battling cancer for the past several years.
“Two weeks ago, he called home and sang happy birthday to my wife,” said David Warrack, a close friend of Burgess and his pianist for about 15 years.
“He was a beautiful man and there was nobody like him.”
Burgess was best known for his role in the Toronto production of Les Misérables where he played the character of Jean Valjean 1,000 times in duration of the production. The year long production opened at Toronto’s Royal Alexandra Theatre on March 15, 1989.
“Michael created the role of Jean Valjean in Les Miserables, which was one of the first international blockbusters to have its own production in Canada with a local cast,” said David Mirvish on the life and legacy of the great Canadian musical theatre star Michael Burgess.
“He was a very talented performer with a spellbinding voice and a truly arresting stage presence.”
In its 1989 review of Les Miz, the Star wrote: “It’s hard to imagine anyone bringing greater energy and commitment to the role of Valjean than Burgess, particularly in the opening part of the show. His voice is strong and secure (everyone receives discreet electronic aid) and his rendering of the touching, falsetto-style number “Bring Him Home” is exquisite.”
His other major performances include Man of la Mancha, Blood Brothers, and starring roles throughout Canada and the United States.
Burgess was also known for singing the national anthem at sporting events.
Burgess was the first person to sing “O Canada” at a World Series baseball game, in Atlanta in 1992.
Many Canadians, especially Toronto Maple Leaf fans, took to Twitter to express how much they will miss the legend who’s voice graced many home games.
Burgess married Susan Gilmour, his costar in Les Miz, in 1994.
He attended St. Michael’s Choir School in Toronto.
Toronto’s Princess of Wales Theatre and Royal Alexandra Theatre will dim their marquee lights on Tuesday, September 29, at 8 p.m. for two minutes in the memory of Burgess.
- This story is updated from an earlier version