Petty was born in Winnipeg.
In Europe, he sang at Le Lido in Paris and appeared with Betty Grable in the London West End musical Belle Starr. In the United States, he made his Broadway debut in Arthur Kopit's Wings, created the role of Eddie Dorrance on All My Children, and co-starred with Ginger Rogers and Sid Caesar in a national tour of Cole Porter’s Anything Goes.
He appeared in the U.S. and Canada in the title role of Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd, directed by Hal Prince. His film and television credits include Extreme Measures with Gene Hackman and Hugh Grant, Perry Mason, Spenser: For Hire, Monk, Loving Friends and Perfect Couples, Forever Knight, E.N.G., Night Heat, Seeing Things, Hot Shots, All My Children, A Judgement in Stone, Kung Fu: The Legend Continues, Counterstrike, The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne, Traders, F/X2 and Martha Inc: The Martha Stewart Story.
He has also done voices in several cartoon shows including X-Men, The Busy World of Richard Scarry, Bob and Margaret, Mythic Warriors: Guardians of the Legend, Bad Dog, Redwall, Mischief City, Ned's Newt, Jacob Two-Two, Monster Force, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Freaky Stories, Free Willy, Rupert, The Adventures of Tintin, Little Bear, Roboroach, Birdz, Pippi Longstocking and Rescue Heroes.
Since 1996, Ross Petty Productions have been producing what they call “Fractured Fairy Tale Musicals” at Toronto’s Elgin Theatre. The shows are firmly in the old English pantomime tradition, incorporating many of that style’s elements — broad comedy, winking asides that break the “fourth wall”, audience participation, and, of course, a man in a dress.
Petty had previously been involved since the early 1980s with pantomimes staged at the Royal Alexandra Theatre by British producer Paul Elliott who imported traditional English pantos using a largely British cast with a few token Canadian actors. Petty began appearing in the shows in 1983 and became co-producer with Elliott in 1986 before launching his own version of the tradition a decade later. Unlike the Royal Alex pantos, Ross Petty Productions adapted the genre to the Canadian scene using original scripts and a Canadian cast as well as adaptations such as dropping the use of the principal boy while retaining the pantomime dame and modernizing the form with the use of current, local and/or pop cultural references and satirical versions of popular music.
Petty appeared in the musicals, usually as the villain or pantomime dame, for 20 productions in a row. He retired from performing following the 2015 production of Peter Pan but continues as producer.
Petty instructs his writers to take a feminist approach to the scripts so that characters such as Cinderella and Snow White "aren’t just pining after the prince" but are more assertive and independent. His productions have been criticized, however, for lacking diversity in casting and not utilizing colour-blind casting in a city where almost half the population are visible minorities. His productions have also been criticised for commercialism through product placement and projecting ads on a screen between acts, however, Petty argues that the shows would not be financially viable without commercial sponsorship.1996 — Robin Hood (Karen Kain, Frank Augustyn)
1997 — Jack and the Beanstalk (Heath Lamberts)
1998 — Aladdin (Ernie Coombs)
1999 — Cinderella (Juan Chioran)
2000 — Peter Pan (Sheila McCarthy)
2001 — Snow White (Graham Abbey)
2002 — Robin Hood (Rex Harrington)
2003 — Cinderella (Erin Davis, Don Harron)
2004 — Aladdin (Bret "The Hitman" Hart)
2005 — Snow White (Alan Frew, Sean Cullen, Ryan Malcolm, Gary Beals, Billy Klippert, Elena Juatco)
2006 — Aladdin (Bret "The Hitman" Hart)
2007 — Peter Pan (Kurt Browning)
2008 — Cinderella (Paula Brancati, Jake Epstein)
2009 — Robin Hood (Eva Avila, Jessica Holmes)
2010 — Beauty and the Beast (Jake Epstein, Melissa O'Neil, Jake Simons, Scott Thompson)
2011 — The Wizard of Oz (Elicia MacKenzie, Jessica Holmes)
2012 — Snow White (Graham Abbey, Eddie Glen, Melissa O'Neil)
2013 — The Little Mermaid (Dan Chameroy, Eddie Glen, Jordan Clark, Chilina Kennedy)
2014 — Cinderella (Danielle Wade, Dan Chameroy, Eddie Glen)
2015 — Peter Pan (Anthony MacPherson, Dan Chameroy, Eddie Glen, Jessica Holmes)
2016 — Sleeping Beauty (A. J. Bridel, Eddie Glen Hilary Farr)
2017 — A Christmas Carol (A. J. Bridel, Dan Chameroy, Eddie Glen)
He has been married to former National Ballet of Canada dancer and current Artistic Director, Karen Kain since 1983. The couple reside in Toronto.