Kyle Jean-Baptiste, Who Made History in Broadway's Les Misérables, Dies at 21

Jean-Baptiste became the first African-American performer to play the role of Jean Valjean on Broadway.

Kyle Jean-Baptiste has died at the age of 21.
Kyle Jean-Baptiste has died at the age of 21.

Kyle Jean-Baptiste, the young actor who made history July 23 when he became the first African-American to play the role of Jean Valjean in Broadway's Les Misérables, died August 28 after falling from a fire escape. Jean-Baptiste was 21 years old.

"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," the production said in a statement. "We send our deepest condolences to his family and ask that you respect their privacy in this unimaginably difficult time."

Jean-Baptiste was also the youngest actor to have performed as Jean Valjean on Broadway. An understudy with the production since graduating from Baldwin Wallace University, he regularly played the characters Courfeyrac and Constable when he was not taking on the show's leading role. He had gone on several times throughout the summer of 2015, most recently on August 27. He was scheduled to depart the company on September 6.

On August 30, the family of Kyle Jean-Baptiste released the following statement:

"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. With a smile "yay wide," a heart worn on his sleeve, and a song always on his lips, he walked with us for twenty-one years. To say he will be missed would be an understatement. 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. We extend our gratitude to our extended family, Victoria Bussert, Scott Plate, Ben Sands, Cameron Mackintosh, and friends — old and new. Services will be private."

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Les Misérables

Closed: September 4, 2016