Broadway Community Gathers for Tearful Farewell to Kyle Jean-Baptiste in Central Park

News   Broadway Community Gathers for Tearful Farewell to Kyle Jean-Baptiste in Central Park
Almost 200 people gathered around the Bethesda Fountain in New York's Central Park Aug. 31 to lay flowers, sing, and honor the life of Kyle Jean-Baptiste, the youngest and first African American performer to play Jean Valjean on a Broadway stage. Baptiste died tragically Aug. 29 after falling from a Brooklyn fire escape.

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

The service began with a speech by Brandyn Day, Jean-Baptiste's best friend. His speech, while somber, also included many fond memories of the time they shared together. He said, "I don’t think there are words for this moment." Day recalled their first meeting at Baldwin Wallace University. The first thing he said to Jean-Baptiste was, "Dude, have you seen the amount of work we have to do here?" 

Day went on to speak about how Kyle "always knew what to say to strangers. He taught me how to speak to strangers. He taught me how to love people." Day said he knew that they would be best friends for their entire lives.

Speaking about Jean-Baptiste's Broadway career, Day said that Jean-Baptiste knew he would make it. "Kyle had this crazy idea that he was going to be on Broadway," he said. "He said it every day. He followed Playbill[.com] like it was his job. He kept saying 'Dude, I'm gonna be in Les Miz.'"

Day, who is also a working actor, never saw his best friend perform as Jean Valjean. He joked that they would say that it was a good thing that he wasn't able to see him perform because that meant he was working.

Following the speech, friends and family handed out flowers to everyone who had come to pay respects and asked them to stand around the fountain.

The crowd was led in singing "Do You Hear the People Sing?" by Day and another classmate. When the song was over, everyone placed their flowers along the rim of the fountain. Some people sent balloons with messages to Jean-Baptiste up into the sky, others waved goodbye. 


Members of Jean-Baptiste's graduating class have set up a campaign to raise money for a scholarship at Baldwin Wallace University in his name. Over $26,000 has been raised in a single day. For more information, or to donate, click here.

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