3 Oct 2008

Show goes on without Guest

7:25 am on 3 October 2008

The show went on in Melbourne on Thursday night despite the death of Rob Guest.

Theatregoers said the tears were flowing on stage among the performers during the final number of the hit musical Wicked.

Guest, 58, died early on Thursday after he was taken off life support in St Vincent's Hospital, following a massive stroke.

His partner Kellie Dickerson, teenage children Christopher and Amy and other family and friends were with him when he died. Funeral arrangements are yet to be confirmed.

Born in Britain, Guest enjoyed fame as a pop star in New Zealand when he began performing on the television show Happen In in the 1970s and 1980s and spent a decade in Las Vegas.

He was best known in Australia for playing the lead role in Phantom of the Opera and was the world's longest serving Phantom with a record 2,289 performances over seven years during the 1990s.

Guest also starred in Les Miserables and performed in more than 40 stage and television productions. He was awarded an OBE for his services to the New Zealand entertainment industry in 1994.

Guest performed his 100th show in his latest role in Wicked last Friday.

His role as the Wizard was performed by understudy Rodney Dobson on Thursday.

Producer John Frost said theatre companies across Australia and New Zealand planned to dedicate performances to him in the coming week.

Tributes from NZ

New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark on Thursday expressed her deep sadness at Guest's death, saying he touched many lives and would be sadly missed.

Entertainer and long-time friend Tina Cross said she could not believe the news. She watched Guest perform two weeks ago in Melbourne and said he was in great spirits.

Singer Ray Columbus, who is recovering from a stroke he suffered recently, said it would be an empty stage without his friend.

Tribute has also been paid to Guest by an old friend, Radio New Zealand presenter Phil O'Brien, who said he was "the nicest guy you could ever hope to meet" and who never let fame get the better of him.