Kyle Jean-Baptiste, who made history as the first African-American actor as well as the youngest ever to be cast as the lead role of Jean Valjean in Les Misérables on Broadway, died Friday evening after a four-story fall from a Brooklyn fire escape. He was 21.
"Yesterday, a young man who was kind, thoughtful, respectful, confident and vulnerable, left our world. He was a son, a brother, a grandson, a nephew, a cousin, and a friend," Jean-Baptiste's family shared in a statement to Broadway World. "With a smile 'yay wide,' a heart worn on his sleeve, and a song always on his lips, he walked with us for 21 years."
"To say he will be missed would be an understatement," the statement continued. "Our pain has no boundaries. Kyle Xavier Seth Jean-Baptiste has left an indelible mark on all of our lives. His talent was boundless and his light was so bright. We are grateful for each and every day we got to spend with him. His energy will live on in each of us."
Following the Saturday matinee performance of Les Miserables, the cast paid tribute to the young star after curtain call.
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“Thank you very much. If we could just have a few more minutes of your time? Sadly this morning, a very talented member of our company and a future rising star of this community passed away,” Ramin Karaloo, the show's current Jean Valjean, informed the audience. "Kyle Jean-Baptise, who understudied Jean Valjean and passed away this morning, was a dear friend to us. We wanted to give our condolences and our time and respect to the privacy of his family -- we also want to dedicate this performance to him, to this good friend of ours, Kyle Jean-Baptiste."
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Jean-Baptiste was born on December 3, 1993 in New York, New York. His last performance as Jean -- a role that marked his Broadway debut -- was Thursday, as he was leaving the role to join the Broadway production of The Color Purple on September 6.
Jean-Baptiste's friends, family and Broadway peers took to social media to mourn the loss of the young actor after hearing the heartbreaking news.
Ansel Elgot, who attended Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School in Manhattan and performed with Jean-Baptiste, paid his respects in a series of tweets. “I played opposite Kyle Jean-Baptiste in Hairspray in high school at Laguardia,” The Fault In Our Stars actor wrote. “What I remember most above his talent was his warmth.”
Tony-award winner Audra McDonald’s tweet was short, simply stating the news was “heartbreaking.”
Lin-Manuel Miranda, writer of Broadway’s Hamilton, posted a similar tweet:
Singer Josh Groban said, “He was just getting started. So sad.”
Broadway veteran Kristin Chenoweth also tweeted the sad news.
Here’s a look at more condolences from celebrity fans and friends:
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