It was a gut-wrenching scene outside New York City’s Imperial Theater —hundreds of fans, friends and family gathered to honor the memory of an actor whose life was cut way too short.


Kyle Jean-Baptiste, 21, was the first African-American, and the youngest actor ever, to play Jean Valjean on Broadway in the beloved musical, Les Miserables.

The Brooklyn-born actor died early Saturday in a fall from his mother’s fire escape, officials said.

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Friends and cast members of Les Mis gathered in Central Park on Monday and were there again Tuesday night as lights on the theater dimmed at 10:15 p.m. in his memory.

Jean-Baptiste played the roles of the constable and Courfeyrac and was also the understudy Jean Valjean lead actor Ramin Karimloo.

He got to fill in for Karimloo on July 23, making theater history.

“We mourn the sudden and tragic loss of Kyle Jean-Baptiste, an immensely talented actor who followed his dreams that led to playing the lead role of Jean Valjean in Les Misérables on Broadway,” said Charlotte St. Martin, President of the Broadway League.

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"He was a rising star who graced our stage for too short a time, but his historic achievements and what he represents for the future will be remembered and honored. Our thoughts are with his family, friends, and fans."

The 6’2’’ tenor was a graduate of New York’s City’s “Fame” high school -- Fiorello LaGuardia High School of the Performing Arts.

His college alma mater, Baldwin Wallace University in Ohio, also held a memorial Tuesday night.

The school has set up a scholarship fund in his honor.To donate, find his name in the drop-down menu.

Baptiste was set to leave Les Mis next week to join the cast of The Color Purple.

Les Mis producer Cameron Mackintosh said this of Jean-Baptiste: "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.”

John A. Oswald is editor-at-large at Metro and can be found on Twitter@nyc_oz.
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