Broadway actor Kyle Jean-Baptiste died on Friday after falling from the fire escape of his mother's building. The 21-year-old became the first African American and the youngest actor to play the lead role of Jean Valjean in Les Miserables on Broadway.
Jean-Baptiste made his debut on Broadway in June 2015. He was initially an ensemble and an understudy to the role of Jean Valjean, which was played by actor Hugh Jackman in the 2012 film.
He made his debut as the show's lead character in July of this year, standing in for the Tony-nominated performer Ramin Karimloo. On Twitter, Jean-Baptiste described the opportunity as a "dream role" and described himself as a "pretty fortunate dude" in a later Tweet.
"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," a representative for the show told BroadwayWorld. "We send our deepest condolences to his family and ask that you respect their privacy in this unimaginably difficult time."
The stage actor portrayed Valjean for the final time on Thursday, 27 August, the day before his death. He tweeted his thanks to fans and fellow cast members for all their support during his time on the show.
Jean-Baptiste wrote: "Thursday is my last Valjean on Broadway. The ability to play this part on Broadway has been life changing. I'm so greatful. @LesMizBway." He added. "I thank everyone who supported me and still does. I will never forget this experience. Onwards and upwards ;). Nothing but love @LesMizBway".
Meanwhile, a post on his Facebook page revealed that his final Les Miserables stage show performance was to be on 6 September. The stage actor was due to star alongside Jennifer Hudson in the Broadway version of the movie The Color Purple.
The recent Baldwin Wallace University graduate wrote on his website: "If you would of asked me what I wanted to be growing up I'd have said a cardiologist. I grew up in Brooklyn New York and had always sung, but never took it seriously. I decided to audition for Fiorello LaGuardia for vocal performance and got in (miracle) and the rest was history.
"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.
"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."
A spokeswoman for the New York Police Department told reporters that Jean-Baptiste's death was believed to be accidental. According to a police statement, Jean-Baptiste was sitting on a fourth-floor fire escape of an apartment in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighbourhood of Brooklyn with a 23-year-old woman Friday night when he stood up, slipped and then fell backward to the ground.