"Onwards and upwards ;)." A Tribute

Chris Peterson

Last week I was going to write a feature about Kyle Jean-Baptiste, the young man who had just become the first African American to play the role of Jean Valjean in a Broadway production of Les Miserables. 

We had friended each other on Facebook so on Monday, I sent him a message to see if he wanted answer some questions about his life and experience in the role. I wasn't expecting a reply but less than ten minutes later he replied,

"That sounds fantastic! let me check with some people to see if I can. Thanks!"

That was just a couple of days ago and this afternoon I learned that Kyle died in a terrible accident at his mother's home. 

Stories like Kyle's don't come around every day, if ever. 

He was raised in Brooklyn where he never really took singing seriously until he was accepted to the prestigious LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts.  He would then go on to Baldwin Wallace University's Conservatory of Music, another incredibly prestigious program. 

And then, this past May, literally one day after he graduated college, Kyle was cast in Les Miserables. Then later this summer, he would make history. Here's how he thought of the moment. 

"This was my dream since I was a little boy. This incredible team of creatives presented an opportunity to play a part I have dreamed of playing since I was introduced to theatre, and I am forever grateful. I felt a huge amount of responsibility to do right by them and to honor this iconic material."

Kyle's career was about to explode as well. A colleague of mine who writes for another publication had a chance to speak with him once as well. She told me, "This guy is going to be huge."

Another producer friend of mine had mentioned how there was a ton of interest in him as well. He even spoke about how there were some big things happening soon.

With just one show and a handful of performance, Kyle Jean-Baptiste had accomplished not only history but served as an outstanding role model for others to follow in. 

Beyond his remarkable talent, Kyle had a reputation of being a remarkable person as well. He was known as being kind, generous, funny, an outstanding cook and encouraging of his fellow performers.

My Facebook feed is flooded with thoughts about Kyle, and very few of them mention his talent. 

It's always sad to lose someone within the Broadway community but this one especially hurts. Losing someone so young, so talented in such a tragic way, there are no words.

So I'll leave you with some of his own from one of his last tweets, 

I thank everyone who supported me and still does. I will never forget this experience. Onwards and upwards ;). Nothing but love..

Kyle Jean-Baptiste 1993-2015

"Bring Him Home"