First Black ‘Les Mis’ Lead Actor Dies Tragically at 21

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By Richardine Bartee

On Friday evening, Kyle Jean-Baptiste, a celebrated Broadway actor of Haitian descent died by falling four stories from a fire escape in Brooklyn, New York at his mother’s home.

Making history earlier this month as the first African-American man, and the youngest person to play the lead role of Jean Valjean in the world-renowned French musical, Les Misérables, the tragic news of the young star’s death is shocking. He was only 21-years-old with a bright future ahead of him.

Before landing his history-making gig, he often played Valjean’s understudy and the roles of Courfeyrac and Constable.

“Thursday is my last Valjean on broadway. The ability to play this part on Broadway has been life changing. I’m so greatful (sic),” he tweeted on August 27. “Last Valjean!”

Broadway House confirmed his death in a statement.

“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.”

Jean-Baptiste was a Baldwin-Wallace University graduate. According to his post on Instagram, he was excited to start a new show, The Color Purple, which was set to start on September 6.

Before he had the opportunity to perform on Broadway, he starred in other regional theater productions including, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Murder Ballad, Singin’ in the Rain, and The Music Man. Last year, Jean-Baptiste played the role of Enjolras, a French revolutionary who fights until his death for rights for the poor and underprivileged, in a production of Les Misérables at the Idaho Shakespeare Festival.

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