Kellie Dickerson death: Australian musical director behind Wicked, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory dies, aged 53, after rare MSA diagnosis

The Aussie musical theatre director behind shows including Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Wicked and The Book of Mormon has died.

Kellie Dickerson, 53, directed some of the biggest theatre productions in Australia and worldwide.

Her agent, Working Management, confirmed her death on Tuesday, just a few years after she was diagnosed with a rare brain condition.

“It was both a joy and honour to be your friend and agent,” Working Management said in a post.

“You gave so much to so many. A true icon of the industry. Your energy, kindness and talent were boundless.

“You never gave up the fight, humour, grace or Wordle!”

Dickerson was diagnosed with Multiple System Atrophy (MSA) — a rare neurodegenerative disorder — in 2020.

The news followed a two-year battle for a diagnosis.

She told Limelight magazine she first noticed something was wrong when her “speech was a little slurred as if I was drunk”.

“I went to a doctor and I demanded an MRI scan because I thought it was better to know than not to know, and the first one came back normal,” Dickerson explained.

“They said ‘you are crazy’, and I said ‘no, there is something not quite right’.

“Basically, the last two years have been a whirlwind of doctors, with me insisting that something was not right and them saying everything was fine.”

A second MRI showed brain abnormalities and, eventually, Dickerson was diagnosed with MSA.

It is a rare, degenerative neurological disorder that affects the body’s involuntary functions, including blood pressure and motor control.

MSA shares many symptoms with Parkinson’s disease, has no cure and has an average life expectancy of 7-10 years from the time symptoms first appear.

Dickerson retired from theatre in 2020 and, as her disease progressed, moved to Dubbo, NSW, where she was cared for by her parents.

Musical theatre actor Rhonda Burchmore was among those who shared a tribute to the star.

“Rest in peace darling Kellie and fly high beautiful lady,” she said.

“MSA is the cruellest of neurological diseases. I know full well as this is the same disease that took my sister’s life away.

“Now you can be reunited with darling Rob. Much love to your beautiful parents, Toni and John who cared so wonderfully for you. I am so very sad.”
Dickerson lost her partner, Rob Guest, who starred in Phantom, Les Miserables and Wicked, to a stroke in 2008 when he was just 57.

Musical director John Foreman described Dickerson as “such a wonderful person. Kind-hearted, super smart, a wonderful human being”.

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