Kyle Jean-Baptiste, a 21-year-old actor who made his Broadway debut last month in the current revival of "Les Miserables" in New York, died Friday evening after falling from a fire escape at his mother's home, Broadway World reported. The actor made history July 23 when he starred as Jean Valjean in "Les Miserables": He was both the first African-American and the youngest actor to play the key role on Broadway.
The actor also played the roles of Constable and Courfeyrac in the long-running musical.
"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," the company behind the current revival said in a statement cited by Broadway World Saturday.
Celebrities, including musical theatre actors Kristin Chenoweth and Josh Groban, tweeted condolences following the news.
RIP Kyle Jean-Baptiste. My love and hugs to his family. And the cast of @LesMiserables
— Kristin Chenoweth (@KChenoweth) August 29, 2015
He was just getting started. So sad. My condolences as well to family and cast. https://t.co/1q6r0wmG1f
— josh groban (@joshgroban) August 29, 2015
On his first night as the Jean Valjean character, Jean-Baptiste tweeted: “Today I go on as my dream role. No words. Guna remember this night.”
— Kyle Jean- Baptiste (@BaptisteKyle) July 23, 2015
Following his debut, Jean-Baptiste tweeted his gratitude to his fans.
Thank you for all the love ! Last night was one of the best nights of my life. Thanks to all who came. C U at the barricade @LesMizBway
— Kyle Jean- Baptiste (@BaptisteKyle) July 24, 2015
A recent graduate of Baldwin Wallace University in Ohio, Jean-Baptiste grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and attended Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, according to his personal website.
“Getting thrown into the world of musical theatre was terrifying, and at first I didn't know if I could handle it, but through hard work and perseverance it all came together,” Jean-Baptiste said on his website. “Acting and singing have become an extension of who I am, and I strive to use my gift to influence and inspire others. I am now shooting for the stars and trying to reach my goal of becoming the best stage and screen actor that I can be.”
Baptiste spoke with the Huffington Post last month following his debut, explaining that he had always wanted to play Valjean but never thought it possible. "Audiences are being forced to look at an iconic story through the eyes of a character with a different perspective because of the color of his skin," Jean-Baptiste said. "Now that I've done the role, I've realized how this news can inspire."
Watch the interview here: