Friends of History-Making Young Actor Kyle Jean-Baptiste Plan Monday Memorial in Central Park

News   Friends of History-Making Young Actor Kyle Jean-Baptiste Plan Monday Memorial in Central Park
 
Kyle Jean-Baptiste, the promising young actor who made history July 23 when he went on as Jean Valjean in the Broadway revival of Les Misérables at just 21 years old, died Aug. 29 in an accidental fall. Friends are planning a memorial Aug. 31 in New York's Central Park.

The memorial is planned for 2 PM at Bethesda Fountain.

Playbill.com has confirmed that the actor fell from a fire escape at his mother's apartment in New York early on the morning of Aug. 29, following the evening performance of Les Misérables. The production marked his Broadway debut. The New York Times quoted police saying the fall appeared to be accidental. "Mr. Jean-Baptiste was sitting on the fire escape with a 23-year-old female friend, the police said, when he stood up, slipped and fell backward to the street below."

The actor's family issued the following statement to the Broadway community Sunday morning: "Yesterday, a young man who was kind, thoughtful, respectful, confident and vulnerable, left our world. He was a son, a brother, a grandson, a nephew, a cousin, and a friend. With a smile 'yay wide,' a heart worn on his sleeve, and a song always on his lips, he walked with us for 21 years. To say he will be missed would be an understatement. Our pain has no boundaries. Kyle Xavier Seth Jean-Baptiste has left an indelible mark on all of our lives. His talent was boundless and his light was so bright. We are grateful for each and every day we got to spend with him. His energy will live on in each of us. We extend our gratitude to our extended family, Victoria Bussert, Scott Plate, Ben Sands, Cameron Mackintosh and friends — old & new. Services will be private."

Ramin Karimloo, the current Valjean, gave a curtain call speech after the Aug. 29 matinee and asked the audience to give Kyle a standing ovation. Here is the full text of his remarks: "Sadly this morning, a very talented member of our company and a future rising star of this community passed away. Kyle Jean-Baptise, who understudied Jean Valjean and passed away this morning, was a dear friend to us. We wanted to give our condolences and our time and respect to the privacy of his family. We also want to dedicate this performance to him, to this good friend of ours, Kyle Jean-Baptiste. He was like a tornado of energy, and only 21 at this point. He was a good buddy of mine and...he was already headed towards his second Broadway show, and this kid was going to be a star. He was a one-man band. He had a lot of moxie, and he wanted to sprint before he could crawl. But I tell you what, his stride could keep it. It's just a very sad day for us, so I want to celebrate his life and to celebrate, in what little time he was here, how much he accomplished. I'll tell you what: We're all standing now. We'd like to continue to the standing ovation for him because I guarantee you it was going to happen a thousand times over in his career."

The company was told of Jean-Baptiste's death before the Aug. 29 matinee. Producer Cameron Mackintosh sent the company this message: "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. 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."

An earlier statement from the production read, "The entire Les Misérables family is shocked and devastated by the sudden and tragic loss of Kyle, a remarkable young talent and tremendous person who made magic — and history — in his Broadway debut. We send our deepest condolences to his family and ask that you respect their privacy in this unimaginably difficult time."

Kyle Jean-Baptiste
Kyle Jean-Baptiste Laura Marie Duncan Photography

Jean-Baptiste was the youngest actor and first African-American to have performed the role on Broadway, although there have been others who have played it in the national tour and other productions. He was cast in the Broadway revival following his graduation from Baldwin Wallace University. 

Cleveland.com reported that Jean-Baptiste caught the eyes of Les Miz casting directors at his senior showcase, in which he performed a tune from Once and "Glory," the Academy Award-winning song from "Selma."

Here is Jean-Baptiste's audition for Les Miserables, supplied to Playbill.com by Tara Rubin Casting:

 

 

9 Questions With the History-Making, Youngest and First African-American Jean Valjean — "This Was My Dream"

Prior to his Jean Valjean debut, Jean-Baptiste tweeted that he had "No words."

 

 

 

 

When asked about making his debut as Jean Valjean, he told Playbill.com, "I did not immediately think of it as making history. This was my dream since I was a little boy. This incredible team of creatives presented an opportunity to play a part I have dreamed of playing since I was introduced to theatre, and I am forever grateful. I felt a huge amount of responsibility to do right by them and to honor this iconic material."

When he was not going on for Jean Valjean, the role that he understudied, Jean-Baptiste played Constable and Courfeyrac.

Jean-Baptiste recently participated in the Ham4Ham lottery with Hamilton writer and star Lin-Manuel Miranda, singing "Confrontation." Watch the performance here.

Broadway Community Shares Support Over Tragic Death of Young Les Misérables Star Kyle Jean-Baptiste

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