Prolific and much-loved musical theatre star and producer Michael Falzon has died aged 48, following a year-long battle with cancer.

Falzon’s musical theatre career was kickstarted in 2003 when he was hand-picked by Ben Elton and Queen for the lead role of Galileo in the Australian production of We Will Rock You. He reprised the role in Japan and the UK, and led the show’s first-ever arena venue. His other theatrical credits include The Pirates of Penzance and HMS Pinafore with Opera Queensland in his early career, The Wharf Revue (STC), Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Floyd Collins, Rock of Ages, Side by Side by Sondheim, Chess, Jesus Christ Superstar and The War of the Worlds – Alive on Stage (Australia/NZ and UK/European arena tours).

Michael Falzon

His final musical theatre performance was as Magaldi in the Opera Australia/John Frost production of Evita in 2018–19 opposite Tina Arena, Paolo Szot and Kurt Kansley. It was during rehearsals for Sweeney Todd opposite Anthony Warlow last June when Falzon was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of germ cell cancer, and had to withdraw from the production for immediate treatment.

Falzon’s concert performances include The Music of Queen (Sydney Opera House, Perth Convention Centre, Hamer Hall), Swing On This (Adelaide Festival Centre, QPAC, Theatre Royal, Perth Concert Hall, Sydney Opera House) and Painted From Memory – The Music of Bacharach and Costello (Australian tour) with further engagements as a soloist in English National Ballet’s Strictly Gershwin (QPAC, QSO & Queensland Ballet) and A Friday Night at The Opera at London Coliseum (BBC Concert Orchestra for BBC Radio2).

As well as a stellar international career as a performer, Falzon diversified as a producer, creating the popular band Swing on This with mates Luke Kennedy, Ben Mingay, Matt Lee and Rob Mills. In October last year, he produced the charity concert High Standards at Sydney’s City Recital Hall to raise money for Actors Benevolent Fund of NSW, a charity close to his heart. His final stage performance was at that concert, a poignant My Funny Valentine which brought the house to tears.

Michael Falzon as Magaldi in Evita for Opera Australia and John Frost. Photograph © Jeff Busby

Tributes have flooded social media from across the globe. “I was deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Michael Falzon. Michael was an extremely talented artist, a great colleague and a wonderful human being. I send my heartfelt condolences to his family on this very sad day”, said OA Artistic Director Lyndon Terracini on Twitter.

“He was a leading man and producer,” David Campbell tweeted. “He loved the arts and he loved what we do. He had a smile that could light up a stage and the first ten rows.”

Falzon’s We Will Rock You co-star, Kate Maree Hoolihan, said on Facebook, “I’m utterly broken. We cut our teeth on our first lead roles together. Over those two years we went through massive highs to excruciating lows, we fought, we laughed, we cried, we grew. And in the 20 years since, you grew into a powerhouse of a human, but to me you were still the same pain in the arse guy with the most insanely awesome laugh, that you couldn’t help but love. The universe has another star tonight. Falzon, you will not be forgotten.”

“You brought joy and light to the world and will be missed beyond words,” opera singer Jacqui Dark tweeted.

Theatre critic Jason Whittaker tweeted, “Prodigiously talented. Stole shows in big and small roles. I’ll never forget his transfixing Hedwig in Brisbane a dozen years ago now. He blew the roof off the tiny Cremorne Theatre, cancer is cruel.”

Other tributes included “A wonderful and talented human being” (Simon Tedeschi), “The real deal Oh My heart hurts! … truly splendid artist, Michael Falzon RIP” (Kate Ceberano) and “Always so warm and open, always such a gentleman” (Hayden Tee).

Michael Falzon is survived by his wife, violinist Jane Cho.