#3334KJB and the Inadequacies of the Qualifications for Dimming Lights

Chris Peterson

Previously the Broadway League allowed NINE theaters to dim their lights in honor of NY Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, who never appeared on a Broadway stage.

Tomorrow night the Broadway League will "allow" ONE theater to dim their lights in honor of Kyle Jean-Baptiste, who made theatre history with just one performance on a Broadway stage.

If anything, this puts a spotlight on the ludicrous decision making on the part of the Broadway League, the "organization" who gives a thumbs up or down on such tributes. 

Kyle Jean-Baptiste in Les Miserables

Kyle Jean-Baptiste in Les Miserables

This honor is usually given for theatre legends. However lately, their definition of what constitutes as a legend, seems to be changing. 

In recent years, a tribute that has been bestowed to legends such as Celeste Holm, Lena Horne, Mike Nichols and Marian Seldes has been also bestowed to agents, critics, restaurateurs and the owner of the NY Yankees.

Also, according to their website press releases, since 2006, only 5 African Americans have received such an honor. 

With the exception of the lowering of flags and moments of silents at sporting events, tributes to those who have passed should be organic and left to the discretion of those who want to honor them. 

An organization who is as corruptible and inconsistent as the Broadway League is, shouldn't be allowed to be organizing such a honor.  Instead it should be left to the individual theatre owners. 

But beyond whatever ridiculous reasoning the league has for deciding who should and should not receive the honor, it will never impact what the family and friends and fans who those who have left us,  do to honor them. 

So tomorrow night, at 10:15 pm, we here at OnStage are going to join the Imperial Theatre to honor the life and accomplishments of Kyle Jean-Baptiste. But we're doing it by shutting off our lights for 3 minutes and 33 seconds. Why such a random amount of time? 

Because that's how long it typically takes to sing "Bring Him Home" from Les Mierables. A song which Kyle should have been able to sing for years to come. 

I hope you'll join us. 

Please spread the word by using #3334KJB and let's be better than the Broadway League and honor this incredible human being the right way. 

"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"