He is also well known for numerous theatre roles, including Georges Seurat in Stephen Sondheim's Sunday in the Park with George and Emile de Becque in Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific. He is also known for appearances in film and for his roles in television shows such as Ultraviolet, Brides of Christ, and Play School.
Quast, one of three children, was born in 1957 in Tamworth, New South Wales, Australia. His family lived and worked on a mixed but predominately turkey farm.
He graduated from the National Institute of Dramatic Art in 1979 and began his career in the resident acting company of the State Theatre Company of South Australia. In the early 80's he appeared in plays such as The Mystery Plays of Wakefield, Three Sisters, On The Wallaby, Pericles, A Month in the Country, As You Like It, Pygmalion, A Hard God, No End of Blame, The Threepenny Opera, Shark Infested Waters, Candide with Nimrod Theatre Company, and a musical adaption of Carmen which he debuted with the Melbourne Theatre Company.
In 1981, Philip also began appearing as a presenter on the Australian children's show Play School, a program he would return to on-and-off again for 17 years. He shot to prominence in 1987 when he appeared as Javert in the original Australian production of Les Misérables. This performance won him a Sydney Critic Award and a MO Award. In 1989, he traveled to London to play Javert on the West End stage.
Quast never expected to gain such a prominent role, going to the auditions hoping simply for a place in the chorus. Because he was not able to sight-read music, he walked off the stage at the audition but was called back by Claude-Michel Schönberg and eventually given the part as Javert.
Quast credits much of his success as Javert to stage director Trevor Nunn. "Javert for me is not the Wicked Witch of the West," Quast has said. "In fact, there is very little material to work with in the script. Trevor would say things in passing like 'Have you read the Ten Commandments recently?' That's all he would say. If you're thirsty enough, you can follow it up ... there was the whole basis of our legal system and the explanation for the whole of Les Mis. For me, that's inspired directing. That's why he's such an awesome man."
When playing Javert, Quast gained a reputation as a perfectionist. He also began experiencing intense bouts of stagefright. "I had a terrible time," he said. "It took me a month to get over it. At one stage I wasn't sleeping at all but lying awake planning speeches to the audience about being sorry and could I start again." Quast's performance has been commonly argued to be the definitive interpretation of Javert, spawning many similar versions among stage actors afterwards.
Quast's stage success continued as he won the coveted role of Georges Seurat in the original London production of Stephen Sondheim's Sunday in the Park with George for the Royal National Theatre.
In 1991 he won his first Laurence Olivier Award for Georges Seurat. Quast was under a large amount of stress when preparing for Sunday in the Park with George, as he struggled to master Sondheim's complicated musical scores (Sondheim told him: "you don't play tennis against people you can beat."), learn to paint and sketch for the play, and waited for the impending birth of his first son, who was due five days after opening night.
In 1993 he returned to Australia to play in Sydney Theatre Company productions of William Shakespeare's Coriolanus and Sondheim's Into the Woods in which he played The Wolf/Cinderella's Prince. He then played Dunois in Bernard Shaw's Saint Joan in the West End and on a UK tour in 1994. In 1994-96 he spent two seasons with the Royal Shakespeare Company, performing as Fred/Chorus in A Christmas Carol, and King of Navarre in Shakespeare's Love's Labour's Lost, as well as Lodovico in The White Devil, Banquo in Macbeth, and Achilles in Troilus and Cressida. Before returning for a second season with the RSC, he spent some time back in Australia, performing in the national tour of The Secret Garden as Dr. Neville Craven - along with Anthony Warlow and Marina Prior.
Quast played the part of Javert on the Les Misérables Complete Symphonic Recording, and in Hey, Mr. Producer, a concert in honour of Sir Cameron Mackintosh. Though mainly a baritone, Quast has played some roles written for tenors, namely George (see above), Candide, and Neville in The Secret Garden. Although he is known for his serious roles, he has also performed comedic parts, such as his 2004 appearance as the pompous Miles Gloriosus in a limited run revival of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum at the Royal National Theatre.
Quast more recently played the supporting role of Juan Peron in Andrew Lloyd Webber's 2006 production of Evita at the Adelphi Theatre in London. He was nominated for an Olivier award for this role. In July 2007, Quast performed the role of Judge Turpin in a concert version of Sweeney Todd at London's Royal Festival Hall.
He was most recently in the Menier Chocolate Factory production of Jerry Herman's La Cage aux Folles as Georges.
Quast rejoined the cast of La Cage Aux Folles on 4 May 2009 with Roger Allam. Coincidentally, both actors have performed in the role of Javert in Les Misérables. From July 2010, he played Mr Banks in the Australian premiere production of Mary Poppins at Melbourne's Her Majesty's Theatre, a part Sir Cameron Mackintosh offered to him in the bathroom of The Ivy in London. He won the 2010 Victorian Green Room Award (Melbourne's top theatre awards) for Best Supporting Actor in a Musical for his performance. He also won the Broadway World Australia 2011 award for "Best Featured Actor in a Musical" for Mary Poppins.
In March 2014, New York audiences were treated to a special limited engagement of "Sweeney Todd" at Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall. Quast, in his New York stage debut, performed as Judge Turpin, with Bryn Terfel as Sweeney Todd and Emma Thompson as Mrs. Lovett. The show was scheduled to be broadcast as part of Live at Lincoln Center's television special in September 2014.
In 2012, he played the role of Sir Humphrey Appleby in an Australian production of Yes, Prime Minister. In August/September 2012, he performed the role of Walter Burns in Melbourne Theatre Company's production of His Girl Friday. In November 2013 he joined Hugo Weaving and Richard Roxburgh in Sydney Theatre Company's production of Samuel Beckett's Waiting For Godot. In May/June 2014, Quast played the role of Pastor Manders in Henrik Ibsen's play Ghosts at the Melbourne Theatre Company directed by Gale Edwards.
Philip Quast and his wife Carol have three sons (Harry, Toby, and Edwin). He also teaches at the National Institute of Dramatic Art in Sydney, Australia.
Quast married Carol in 1981 and they were married for almost ten years before having the first of their three sons. He has been noted for his humble nature, stating he doesn't seek after fame and is concerned that success is measured by notoriety instead of the respect of one's peers. He doesn't keep any of his awards, instead sending them to his parents' home in Australia.
Quast was named as one of the 25 Most Beautiful People for 1996 in Who Weekly magazine. In an article for the magazine he said, "The problem with this business is that you have to supposedly look as good as you can all the time. And I hate that. My idea of doing my hair is sticking it out of the window of a car when it's wet."
A baritone, Quast has been universally applauded by critics for his singing voice, which has been described as "warm", and "glorious." He was named by British newspaper The Stage as "one of the most notable singing actors to come along in years".
Quast has won the most Laurence Olivier Awards for Best Actor in a Musical, having won three. This has the most Laurence Olivier Awards held by any actor bar Judi Dench and Ian McKellen.1991 – for Stephen Sondheim's Sunday in the Park with George in the role of Georges Seurat
1998 – for the Dempsey and Rowe musical The Fix as Grahame Chandler
2002 – for Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific in which he played Emille de Becque
Other Awards:2011 – Helpmann Awards – Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Mary Poppins)
2011 – Green Room Awards – Male Artist in a Featured Role (Mary Poppins)
1994 – MO Awards – Male Musical Theatrical Performer & "Kevin Jacobsen" Theatrical Performer
1993 – Sydney Theatre Critics Award – Best Actor (Into the Woods)
1988 – MO Award – Male Musical Theatre Performer (Les Misérables)
1988 – Sydney Theatre Critics Award: Best Actor of the Year (Les Misérables)
Nominations:2011 – Nomination, Sydney Theatre Awards – Best Performance in a Supporting Role in a Musical (Mary Poppins)
2007 – Olivier Awards – Nomination for Best Actor in a Musical for Evita, at the Adelphi Theatre, London, UK
2005 – Nomination, Sydney Theatre Awards – Best Actor in a Lead Role (The Cherry Orchard)
2005 – Nomination, Mo Awards – Best Male Actor in a Play (Democracy)
Philip Quast has appeared in the cast recordings for many musicals, but has also released his own album, Live at the Donmar, containing both covers and original material.
Musical cast recordings:Mary Poppins - Original Australian Cast Recording (2011)
Evita – London Cast Recording (2006)
The Secret Garden – Original London Cast Recording (2001)
South Pacific (Royal National Theatre Production – 2001 London Cast)
The Fix – Original London Cast Recording (1997)
Les Misérables: The Dream Cast in Concert (1995)
The Secret Garden – Original Australian Cast Recording (1995)
Paris – Studio Cast Recording (1990)
Les Misérables: The Complete Symphonic Recording (1989)
Quast has also made numerous appearances on television, in motion pictures and in dramatic theatre. Major roles include:The Devil's Double (2011) – Saddam Hussein
The Caterpillar Wish (2006) – Carl Roberts
Corridors of Power (2001) (TV) – Michael Fielding MP
Ultraviolet (1998) (TV) – Father Pearse Harman
The Damnation of Harvey McHugh (ABC-TV; 1995) – The Minister
Brides of Christ (ABC-TV mini-series; 1991) – Ian McGregor
The First Kangaroos (1988) – Alex Burdon
To Market To Market (1987)
Sons and Daughters (Grundy Television Production) – Bob "Mitch" Mitchell (TV; 1984)
The Young Doctors (Grundy Television Production) – Dr Rob Hawkins (TV; 1982–83)
Play School (1981–96)