NEW YORK -- The marquee lights of the Imperial Theatre, home of Les Miserables on Broadway, dimmed Tuesday evening, following the evening performance, in memory of cast member Kyle Jean-Baptiste.
Jean-Baptiste, 21, who made history of being the first African-American actor and youngest person to play lead role Jean Valjean, died early Saturday morning when he fell off his mother's fire escape.
A native of Brooklyn and a graduate of the Fiorello LaGuardia High School of the Performing Arts, Baptiste attended Baldwin Wallace University in Ohio where he starred in numerous productions. The day after his graduation, he was hired to join the ensemble of Les Miserables and understudy the role of Jean Valjean, beginning performances on June 23.
Baptiste had been scheduled to depart Les Miserables on September 6 to board the new Broadway production of The Color Purple.
“The tragic loss of Kyle to our company, just as he was on the threshold of a brilliant career, is a numbing reminder of how precious life is," said producer Cameron Mackintosh in a statement. "His spirit was infinite and his voice from God—we are all so sad not to have spent more time with him, for he truly was a rare talent and a special person. Our loss is heaven’s gain and our prayers are with his family and friends.”
"We mourn the sudden and tragic loss of Kyle Jean-Baptiste, an immensely talented actor who followed his dreams that led to playing the lead role of Jean Valjean in Les Misérables on Broadway. He was a rising star who graced our stage for too short a time, but his historic achievements and what he represents for the future will be remembered and honored when the Imperial Theatre dims its lights on Tuesday evening following the show,” added Charlotte St. Martin, President of the Broadway League. “Our thoughts are with his family, friends, and fans.”
The Kyle Jean-Baptiste ’15 Music Theatre Scholarship has been established at his alma mater, Baldwin Wallace University, to carry forward Kyle’s legacy and benefit music theater students.
To make a gift in memory of Kyle, please make your check payable to Baldwin Wallace University, note “Kyle Jean-Baptiste MT Scholarship” on the memo line and send to Baldwin Wallace University, c/o Advancement Services, 275 Eastland Road, Berea, Ohio 44017.
To make an electronic gift, go to https://www.b-wcommunity.net/give, in the designation dropdown, select Kyle Jean-Baptiste, and follow the prompts. For more information, please call 440-826-2750.