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."
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."
Prior to his Jean Valjean debut, Jean-Baptiste tweeted that he had "No words."
— Kyle Jean- Baptiste (@BaptisteKyle) July 23, 2015
Thank you for all the love ! Last night was one of the best nights of my life. Thanks to all who came. C U at the barricade @LesMizBway
— Kyle Jean- Baptiste (@BaptisteKyle) July 24, 2015
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.