Kyle Jean-Baptiste

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Kyle Jean-Baptiste
Kyle Jean-Baptiste Twitter photo.jpg
Jean-Baptiste in costume as Courfeyrac from Les Misérables in June 2015
Born (1993-12-03)December 3, 1993
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
Died August 29, 2015(2015-08-29) (aged 21)
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
Alma mater Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School
Baldwin Wallace University[1]
Occupation Broadway Actor
Years active 2015
Known for First black actor to play Jean Valjean in Les Misérables on Broadway[2][3]
Parent(s) Serge and Sonia Jean-Baptiste

Kyle Jean-Baptiste (December 3, 1993 – August 29, 2015) was an American actor. He was the youngest, as well as the first Black,[4] actor to perform the role of Jean Valjean in Les Misérables on Broadway. He was slated to join the cast of the revival of The Color Purple. On August 29, 2015, a day after departing Les Misérables and two days after his final performance as Valjean, he died, after accidentally falling from a fire escape in Brooklyn, New York. Scholarships in his name exist at Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School New York, NY,[5] and at Baldwin Wallace University, in Berea, Ohio.[6]

Early life[edit]

Jean-Baptiste was born to Haitian-born Serge Jean-Baptiste (born 1964) and Guyanese-born, Sonia Jean-Baptiste (born 1966).[7][8] Jean-Baptiste lived in Canarsie, Brooklyn, with his parents and two sisters, Kelsey and Keely, with whom he was close.[9] He attended P.S. 276 in Brooklyn, where he gained a love for the stage. He also attended Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School, where he was accepted on a Vocal audition during the end of Junior High School (PS/IS 66).

In 2011, Jean-Baptiste attended Baldwin Wallace University in Berea, Ohio,[1] where he studied under the tutelage of Victoria Bussert, Scott Plate, Timothy Mussard, Joanne Uniatowski, Adam Hefferman, Gregory Daniels, Sara Whale, Heidi Glynias and others.

During his senior showcase, he sang a selection from the musical Once, followed by "Glory" from the film Selma. He was a tenor.[10] Upon his return to New York City, he was ultimately signed by Ben Sands at Stone Manners Salners Agency. During the showcase, he was spotted by Les Miserables casting directors.[11] The day after graduation, they asked him to join the cast.[12]

Career[edit]

Educational Productions that Kyle had roles in included: Carousel (Billy Bigelow), Les Misérables (Javert) at The New London Barn Playhouse, Love Story The Musical, Murder Ballad The Musical.

Regional shows Jean-Baptiste performed in included Singin' in the Rain, The Music Man, and The Merry Wives of Windsor.[13] In 2014, he played the role of Enjolras in a production of Les Misérables at the Idaho Shakespeare Festival.[14]

In the Broadway revival of Les Misérables, Jean-Baptiste joined the cast on June 23, 2015, playing the roles of Courfeyrac and the Constable, as well as understudying the role of Jean Valjean. He made his first appearance as Jean Valjean on July 23, 2015, going on for Ramin Karimloo while the latter was on vacation. With his appearance, Jean-Baptiste became both the first black actor and the youngest actor to portray the character on Broadway. His last show was August 27, 2015. Prior to the accident, Jean-Baptiste had tweeted his fans "I thank everyone who supported me and still does. I will never forget this experience. Onwards and upwards. Nothing but love."[15]

He was slated to appear with Jennifer Hudson in the Broadway production of The Color Purple later in 2015.[14][16]

Death[edit]

Jean-Baptiste died on August 29, 2015, at Woodhull Hospital in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, New York, after falling four stories, from a fire escape, at the residence that his family were temporarily relocated to after a fire at their primary residence. He went out to view a full moon with a friend, and Jean-Baptiste lost his balance on his way back into his room. His death was ruled an accident.[17] Earlier that evening, he had attended a concert at 54 Below by friend and classmate Andrew Kotzen.[18] The evening before, he had participated in his closing performance of Les Misérables. He was 21 years old.[19]

A memorial, attended by about 200 friends and family was held, at the Bethesda Fountain in Central Park on August 31, 2015 Lights were dimmed at the Les Miserables' Imperial Theatre, Hamilton's Marquee at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, and Cleveland's Playhouse Square on September 1, 2015 at 10:15 PM in his honor.

The Les Misérables production released a statement, saying,

The entire Les Miserables 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.[20]

Other entertainers tweeted their condolences, including Kristin Chenoweth, Debra Messing, Josh Groban, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Ansel Elgort, and Lin-Manuel Miranda.[21] His alma mater, Baldwin Wallace University, posted on Facebook that they were "incredibly saddened by the loss" of one of their own.[12] His Facebook page remains as a Memorial. Three scholarships were begun in his name at Baldwin Wallace University, Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School, and with teachers at the PS 276 Louis Marshall School. The Kyle Jean-Baptiste Foundation, Inc was formed in 2016.

The Baldwin Wallace University community celebrated Jean-Baptiste's life in a student-led ceremony. Classmates raised funds for a music theater scholarship in his name.[22]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "'Les Miserables' Actor Kyle Jean-Baptiste Dies at 21". Chicago: WGN-TV. August 29, 2015. Retrieved August 29, 2015. 
  2. ^ Workneh, Lilly, ed. (30 August 2015). "Kyle Jean-Baptiste, First Black Actor To Play Lead In 'Les Miz' On Broadway, Dies At 21 -- The actor was scheduled to join the cast of "The Color Purple" Sept. 6". Huffington Post. Retrieved 4 October 2015. 
  3. ^ McDonald, Soraya Nadia, ed. (30 August 2015). "'Les Miserables' actor Kyle Jean-Baptiste, Broadway's youngest and first black Jean Valjean, dies after fall". Washington Post. Retrieved 4 October 2015. 
  4. ^ Stack, Liam (August 29, 2015). "Kyle Jean-Baptiste, Actor in 'Les Miserables', Dies at 21". The New York Times. Retrieved August 30, 2015. 
  5. ^ https://alumniandfriends.org/fund/kyle-jean-baptiste-memorial-fund/
  6. ^ https://www.b-wcommunity.net/give
  7. ^ Press, ed. (September 1, 2015). "Kyle Jean-Baptiste, First Black Lead Les Misérables Actor, Dies From Fall". Disbatch Times. Archived from the original on October 5, 2015. Retrieved October 4, 2015. 
  8. ^ Bartee, Richardine, ed. (31 August 2015). "First Black 'Les Mis' Lead Actor Dies Tragically at 21". Atlanta Black Star. Retrieved 4 October 2015. 
  9. ^ Wilson, Simone (August 29, 2015). "Kyle Jean-Baptiste, 21-Year-Old Broadway Star, Dies in Fire Escape Accident". Patch. Retrieved August 30, 2015. 
  10. ^ "Kyle Jean-Baptiste Dead: Les Miserables Broadway Actor Dies at 21". Us Weekly. August 21, 2015. Retrieved August 29, 2015. 
  11. ^ Gioia, Michael (August 29, 2015). "History-Making Jean Valjean Kyle Jean-Baptiste Dies at 21". Playbill. Retrieved August 29, 2015. 
  12. ^ a b Grinberg, Emanuella (August 30, 2015). "Kyle Jean-Baptiste, Broadway's First Black Jean Valjean, Dies After Fall". CNN. Retrieved August 31, 2015. 
  13. ^ Sneider, Jeff (August 29, 2015). "Kyle Jean-Baptiste, Broadway's 'Les Miserables' Star, Dead at 21". The Wrap. Retrieved August 30, 2015. 
  14. ^ a b "Kyle Jean-Baptiste, 1st Black Actor to Play Jean Valjean on Broadway, Dies in Fall". CBS News. August 29, 2015. Retrieved August 30, 2015. 
  15. ^ "1st African-American Actor to Play Valjean on Broadway Dies". WKRN-TV. August 29, 2015. Retrieved August 29, 2015. 
  16. ^ Rutti, Ron (August 29, 2015). "Baldwin Wallace Graduate Kyle Jean-Baptiste, Youngest to Play 'Les Miserables' Lead, Is Dead at 21". The Plain Dealer. Cleveland. Retrieved August 30, 2015. 
  17. ^ Lewis, Daniel (August 29, 2015). "Kyle Jean-Baptiste, 'Les Miserables' Actor, Dead at 21". Daily News. New York. Retrieved August 30, 2015. 
  18. ^ Ramisetti, Kirthana (August 29, 2015). "'Les Miserables' Cast Member Kyle Jean-Baptiste Dies at 21 After Fall from Fire Escape". Daily News. New York. Retrieved August 30, 2015. 
  19. ^ Hilton, Perez (August 29, 2015). "So Sad: The First African-American Actor to Play Jean Valjean in Les Misérables on Broadway Has Died Unexpectedly". PerezHilton.com. Retrieved August 29, 2015. 
  20. ^ Leyfield, James (August 29, 2015). "Kyle Jean-Baptiste Dead Aged 21: 'Les Miserables' Star Passes Away After Falling off Fire Escape". Daily Mirror. London. Retrieved August 29, 2015. 
  21. ^ Goldman, Jessica (August 28, 2015). "Ansel Elgort Remembers Former Classmate, Broadway star Kyle Jean-Baptiste, After His Death". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved August 29, 2015. 
  22. ^ Salamone, Shawn (August 31, 2015). "Bw Community Creates Lasting Tribute To Music Theatre Alumnus Kyle Jean-Baptiste". Baldwin Wallace University.