Renowned Broadway actor Chris Peluso dead at 40 from undisclosed cause

August 20, 2023
Ben Marquis

A relatively young rising star of the theater stage who had gained renown for his versatility as a top understudy for leading roles suddenly passed away this week.

Chris Peluso, famed for his work on New York's Broadway and London's West End, died from an undisclosed cause on August 15 at the age of 40, according to the "Today" show.

He was arguably most famous for his work in recent Broadway renditions of "Mama Mia!" and a nationwide tour of "Wicked," though he had also begun to gain legendary status for ably serving as the top backup for multiple starring roles in numerous other major productions in the U.S. and the U.K.

Recently revealed battle with serious mental health illness

The theater-focused Playbill outlet appears to have been the first to report on the untimely passing of Peluso, which was confirmed by his family.

Though no cause of death has been revealed as of yet, the outlet noted that Peluso's death came just shy of one year after he had publicly disclosed his worsening struggles with a mental health illness known as schizoaffective disorder, which had prompted him to step away from his work and seek treatment.

According to the Mayo Clinic, schizoaffective disorder is a mental health condition "marked by a combination of schizophrenia symptoms, such as hallucinations or delusions, and mood disorder symptoms, such as depression or mania."

Left untreated, the disorder can "lead to problems functioning at work, at school and in social situations, causing loneliness and trouble holding down a job or attending school. People with schizoaffective disorder may need assistance and support with daily functioning."

There are a host of different symptoms and signs and complications of schizoaffective disorder, but among the more serious are suicidal thoughts and behaviors, which can be triggered by other symptoms and complications like severe depression and/or anxiety and social isolation, among other things.

Had received treatment and was reportedly doing better

Peluso's battle with schizoaffective disorder was first publicly revealed in a now-closed September 2022 GoFundMe account established by his friends that ultimately raised around $25,000 to help cover the mounting expenses of a brief hospitalization and inpatient treatment he was seeking from a mental health rehabilitation clinic.

That revelation helped explain why Peluso stepped away from his work and had not been seen in any productions for nearly two years at that point. The star actor himself was quoted as saying at that time, "Hopefully this helps bring some awareness to how so many suffer from mental illness in silence. You never know what someone may be going through. Be kind to each other."

That said, updates posted in the months following the establishment of the fundraising account on Peluso's behalf revealed that he had successfully completed the treatment, was doing much better with the help of new medication, was getting ready to return to work, and was extraordinarily grateful for the generosity of those who had made contributions to the effort.

Leaves behind wife and children as well as friends and fans

The University of Michigan Musical Theatre, which Peluso previously attended, released a statement on Instagram to mourn the loss of the famed stage actor.

"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. Chris appeared on Broadway in MAMMA MIA!, ASSASSINS, LESTAT, THE GLORIOUS ONES, and BEAUTIFUL, played Fiyero on tour in WICKED, and starred in London in MISS SAIGON and SHOWBOAT. Our hearts go out to his family," the statement said.

According to Playbill, Peluso is survived by his wife, Jessica Gomes, and their two young children -- daughter Aria Li Gomes-Peluso and son Caio Lian Gomes-Peluso.

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