History-Making Jean Valjean Kyle Jean-Baptiste Dies at 21

Obituaries   History-Making Jean Valjean Kyle Jean-Baptiste Dies at 21
 
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.

Playbill.com has confirmed that the actor fell from a fire escape early on the morning of Aug. 29, following the evening performance of Les Misérables. The production marked his Broadway debut.

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.

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

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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