With all my usual Broadway jokes aside, let’s take a moment to remember Kyle Jean-Baptiste.

For those of you who don’t know, Kyle was at the same time the first African-American actor and the youngest actor to play Jean Valjean in Les Miserables on Broadway. Last night, on August 28, he fell from a fire escape at his mother’s house and died at only 21 years of age.

Kyle described Jean-Valjean as his dream role when he was cast earlier this month, almost immediately after he graduated from college, as the understudy for the role. Kyle was a bright, kind-hearted man who brought joy not only into the lives of those that were close to him but into those of anyone lucky enough to see him perform before he passed away. During his run, he expressed gratitude for the opportunity he was given and approached the role with a gorgeous voice and a fresh interpretation of the character to many loving audiences. He left the role on August 27, the day before the tragedy, in order to continue with an illustrious Broadway career which the world never got to witness.

Last night we not only lost a great talent, but a symbol. People like Kyle who fight for liberty, equality, and the American dream itself keep freedom alive. This is why it’s so important to make sure that losing such talent and such potential isn’t in vain. Please take a moment to remember Kyle Jean-Baptiste today and make sure that he is never forgotten. Mourn his death, but more importantly, celebrate his life. He may not have shone for long, but when he did, he burned with the kind of brightness that changes the world for the better. You can watch Kyle perform “Bring Him Home” for the first time here. Thank you so much, and RIP Kyle.

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