Marquee lights will be dimmed at the Imperial Theatre, the current Broadway home of Les Misérables, today at 10.15pm in memory of late cast member, Kyle Jean-Baptiste.
Kyle Jean-Baptiste died tragically at the age of 21 on 29 August, little more than one month after making history by debuting as the youngest and first African-American performer to play the part of Jean Valjean in the revival of Les Misérables at the Imperial Theatre.
Broadwayworld.com reported that cast and crew, as well as Jean-Baptiste’s friends and family and other members of the Broadway community. would be able to join in the tribute.
Cleveland’s Playhouse Square will also be making a similar tribute as Jean-Baptiste appeared in several productions there before he headed to Broadway.
A rapidly-growing Twitter campaign, using the hashtag ‘#dim4kyle’ supported the move to dim all the marquee lights on Broadway. The Broadway League is traditionally resistant to granting the honour: last year it turned down appeals to mark the death of Joan Rivers only to relent.
It is believed that Jean-Baptiste fell from a fourth floor fire escape while visiting his mother’s home. He was taken to Woodhull Medical and Mental Health Centre where he was pronounced dead.
Tributes to the young star have flooded in from the Broadway community. Colleague Ramin Karimloo wrote on Twitter: “Today we lost a great talent. Today I lost a friend. Such promise and a wonderful spirit. He came and conquered. RIP brother.”
In its statement, the Broadway Les Misérables company said:“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.
“We send our deepest condolences to his family and ask that you respect their privacy in this unimaginably difficult time.”
Producer Cameron Mackintosh commented: “The tragic loss of Kyle to our company, just as he was on the threshold of a brilliant career, is a numbing reminder of how precious life is. His spirit was infinite and his voice from God – we are all so sad not to have spent more time with him, for he truly was a rare talent and a special person. Our loss is heaven’s gain and our prayers are with his family and friends.”
* Students at Baldwin Wallace University, where Kyle Jean-Baptiste attended, are also launching a scholarship in the actor’s name. Donations have already started to come in.
* It has also been reported that Broadway actor Joshua Park, known for roles in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (Broadway) and the national tour of Pippin, has died at the age of 38, following a brief illness.