Kyle Jean-Baptiste (December 3, 1993 – August 29, 2015) was an American actor.
He was the youngest actor as well as the first African American actor to be cast as Jean Valjean in Les Misérables on Broadway. The show was his career debut.
On August 29, 2015, he died after falling from a fire escape in Brooklyn, New York.
Jean-Baptiste was born to Haitian-born Serge Jean-Baptiste and Sonia Jean-Baptiste. He was the nephew of Marie Jean-Baptiste.
He had a sister, Kelsey, with whom he was close. He attended Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School, where he was acquainted with actor Ansel Elgort. The two appeared together in a high school performance of Hairspray.
After high school, Jean-Baptiste attended Baldwin Wallace University in Berea, Ohio.
During his senior showcase, he sang a selection from the musical Once, followed by “Glory” from the film Selma. He was a tenor.
During the showcase, he was spotted by Les Miserables casting directors. The day after graduation, they asked him to join the cast.
Regional shows Jean-Baptiste performed in included Singin’ in the Rain, The Music Man, and The Merry Wives of Windsor. In 2014, he played the role of Enjolras in a production of Les Misérables at the Idaho Shakespeare Festival.
In the Broadway revival of Les Misérables, Jean-Baptiste was originally playing the roles of the Constable and Courfeyrac. He made his first appearance as Jean Valjean on July 23, 2015, after moving up from understudy to Ramin Karimloo while the latter was on vacation.
With his appearance, Jean-Baptiste became the first black and the youngest person to ever 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.”
He was slated to appear with Jennifer Hudson in the Broadway production of The Color Purple later in 2015.
Jean-Baptiste died on August 29, 2015, at Woodhull Hospital in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, New York, after falling four stories from his mother’s fire escape.
Earlier that evening, he had attended a concert at 54 Below by friend and classmate Andrew Kotzen. The evening before, he had participated in his closing performance of Les Misérables. He was 21 years old.
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.
Other entertainers tweeted their condolences, including Kristin Chenoweth, Debra Messing, Josh Groban, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Ansel Elgort, and Lin-Manuel Miranda.
His alma mater, Baldwin Wallace University, posted on Facebook that they were “incredibly saddened by the loss” of one of their own.