His dream was to play Jean Valjean and on June 23rd, 2015, Kyle Jean-Baptiste, an African-American actor from Brooklyn, made Broadway history when he became the first African-American and, at 21, the youngest actor to play the lead in Les Misérables.
Last Friday night, August 25th, the night after performing the starring role, he died after falling from a fire escape, the New York Times reported. “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.”
He was finishing his contract with Les Misérables and was heading for his next role in The Color Purple with Jennifer Hudson.
Today, cast members of Les Misérables and friends and family of Jean-Baptiste will gather in Central Park at the Bethesda Fountain at 2pm for a remembrance. We join them with these videos looking back on his brief career.
Hearing of the tragedy, Lin-Manuel Miranda shared his performance with the young actor on August 15th, outside the Richard Rodgers Theatre where fans were waiting to get in to his musical Hamilton.
BroadwayWorld has assembled a collection of Jean-Baptiste’s performance videos.
Students of Baldwin Wallace University, where he recently graduated, held a vigil Sunday night to pay respects. And the university is attempting to raise $25,000 to start a Named Endowment fund in his name. The Kyle Jean-Baptiste GoFundMe campaign is underway.