NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Broadway was mourning the death Sunday of the first African-American actor to play the lead in “Les Misérables.”
Kyle Jean-Baptiste, 21, died Friday night after falling off his mother’s fire escape in the Clinton Hill section of Brooklyn.READ MORE: Police Seize 7 Vans Allegedly Used As Airbnb Rentals In Manhattan
Police are calling it an accident, 1010 WINS’ Roger Stern reported. There has been no word about whether drugs or alcohol might have been involved.
The actor was an ensemble member of the company and an understudy for the role of Jean Valjean, going onstage as the ex-convict in a history-making appearance July 23. Not only was he the first black actor to play the role on Broadway, he was also the youngest.
Sunday’s matinee will go on without him, CBS2’s Ilana Gold reported.
“I knew he was always destined for greatness,” said Angela August, a former classmate of Jean-Baptiste’s at LaGuardia High School in Manhattan. “So when this happened, it’s really tragic.
“He’s really great and funny. He’s a really empathetic guy. He’s just really great.”
CBS2 went to the residence where the accident happened. The actor’s relatives were too devastated to talk about their loss and referred CBS2 to the show’s spokesperson.
A rep released a statement saying: “The Les Misérables family is shocked and devastated by the sudden and tragic loss of Kyle, a remarkably young talent and tremendous person who made magic — and history — in his Broadway debut.”
“Les Mis” producer Cameron Mackintosh called Jean-Baptiste a “rare talent” and a “special person.”
Outside the Imperial Theater, one fan said, “It’s obviously a great show, and it’s tragic that he should die so young, and he was part of this.”
Jean-Baptiste’s final performance in “Les Misérables” was supposed to be Sept. 6, and he planned to appear next in the upcoming revival of the musical “The Color Purple.”
In one of his final tweets, he said: “I thank everyone who supported me and still does. I will never forget this experience. Onwards and upwards ;). Nothing but love.”
I thank everyone who supported me and still does. I will never forget this experience. Onwards and upwards ;). Nothing but love @LesMizBwayREAD MORE: Woman Accused Of Telling Black Couple At Brooklyn Dog Park, 'Stay In Your Hood'
— Kyle Jean- Baptiste (@BaptisteKyle) August 25, 2015
The actor’s death has been a big topic on social media.
“Kinky Boots” star Billy Porter wrote: “Very sad. Prayers going out to the family of Kyle Jean-Baptiste. Hug someone you love extra tight.”
Very sad. Prayers going out to the family of Kyle Jean-Baptiste. Hug someone you love extra tight…. http://t.co/iSInuUA9SJ
— Billy Porter (@theebillyporter) August 29, 2015
Actress Anika Noni Rose posted: “Unbelievable. Heartbreaking. RIP Kyle Jean Baptiste.”
Unbelievable. Heartbreaking. RIP Kyle Jean Baptiste https://t.co/iBbH7zLjHO
— Anika Noni Rose (@AnikaNoniRose) August 29, 2015
And actor and former schoolmate Ansel Elgort wrote: “This tragedy shows that people can go in an instant, while we are here we must chase our dreams. Kyle did and he made history.”
This tragedy shows that people can go in an instant, while we are here we must chase our dreams. Kyle did and he made history.
— Ansel Elgort (@AnselElgort) August 29, 2015
On Twitter, people have been pushing for Broadway to dim the lights in Jean-Baptiste’s honor.MORE NEWS: 74th Annual Tony Awards: List Of Winners
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