CENTRAL PARK — A budding Broadway star who fell to his death off a Brooklyn fire escape Saturday was remembered by friends and family who gathered Monday near Central Park's Bethesda Fountain.
Nearly 100 mourners who had been touched by Kyle Jean-Baptiste’s passion came out to support one another, passed out sunflowers and roses and sang a chorus of "Do You Hear the People Sing" from "Les Misérables."
On Saturday, Jean-Baptiste fell to his death from a fourth-floor fire escape on Greene Avenue after he slipped while standing up, according to the NYPD. Police said they don't suspect foul play.
Jean-Baptiste, who grew up in Brooklyn and attended LaGuardia High School, made history when he became the first African-American and the youngest actor to play the lead role of Jean Valjean in “Les Misérables” on Broadway this summer, according to Playbill.
The actor’s last performance as Valjean was on Thursday and he was scheduled to join the Broadway cast of "The Color Purple," according to reports.
"Nobody was a stranger to him, everybody was a friend," said Hannah Weisberg, 22, who went to Baldwin Wallace University in Ohio with Jean-Baptiste and who is helping to raise money for a scholarship fund in his name.
"We all knew as soon as we heard him sing that he was going to change this world and he did."
His boyfriend of several years gave a powerful speech to the crowd gathered on Monday, in between heaving sobs.
"We grew very close, closer than I came to anyone on this planet," said Brandyn Day, who said he met Jean-Baptiste when they were freshmen together at Baldwin Wallace University in Berea, Ohio.
"Kyle had this crazy idea he was going to be on Broadway. He said it every day," Day said. "When he did something, he did it in the biggest possible way."
Friends said he had gotten his lead role on Broadway just days after he graduated from college last spring.
"He graduated on Sunday and booked Broadway on Monday," Weisberg said.
Students and high school teachers who he had touched at LaGuardia High School for Music and Art and Performing Arts recalled his larger-than-life personality.
"He was awesome. He was the biggest personality, big and boisterous, really eager," said Maurice Dawkins, 22, who was in the musical Hairspray with Jean-Baptiste. The two graduated together in 2011.
"Kyle quickly became a huge rising star, a major influence on all of us," Lee Lobenhofer, the high school's drama and theater director said.
"He bridged all gaps."