Jean-Baptiste, who was the first African-American and youngest actor to portray Jean Valjean in the Broadway production of Les Miserables, tragically passed away Aug. 29. The 11:30 PM concert was organized by the late young star’s friend, fellow Baldwin alum and Broadway performer Corey Mach, with all proceeds going to Jean-Baptiste’s family.
The concert kicked off with some of the cast of Lez Miz performing "Seasons of Love" from Rent, followed by Brandyn Day with "Chasing Cars" by Snow Patrol, then Chris McCarrell with "Ordinary People" and Theresa Kloos and Libby Servais with a duet of "I Will Never Leave You" from Side Show.
Next up was Tony nominee and fellow Jean Valjean Ramin Karimloo, who performed an emotional "Bring Him Home." Fellow Les Miz cast member Andrew Kober also performed, offering "Proud Lady" from The Baker's Wife. Kober commented that Jean-Baptiste had a starry-eyed excitement upon joining the cast of Les Miz that was admirable and appreciated by all. "Even though I only knew him briefly, he made a huge impression on my outlook," Kober told the crowd.
Once's Shannon O'Boyle sang "Leave," from the Broadway show, a song that she said Jean-Baptiste was excited to include in his songbook; Phil Carroll performed "Music of the Night" from Phantom of the Opera; Aladdin's Steel Burkhardt and Timothy Mussard sang "Lily's Eyes" from The Secret Garden; Godspell's Wallace Smith performed "Beautiful City" from the show; and Mach sang "Being Alive." Mach finished his performance by saying, "If I've learned anything from … him, it's ...love human beings, love the people around you, because you don't know when they're going to go. I leave you with that."
The concert concluded with Baldwin's musical theatre class of 2015 performing "Saying Our Goodbyes." The band included Jason Aquila on piano, Kristine Kruta on cello and Eli Zoller on guitar.
"54 Below is grateful to have an outlet where we can participate in celebrating the life of Kyle Jean-Baptiste. Kyle not only performed at 54 Below, he was also a passionate audience member, cheering on his friends' performances while enjoying the bacon mac & cheese," Jennifer Ashley Tepper, director of 54 Below, told Playbill.com in the lead-up to the event.
Such an amazing night. Kyle, we love you! #kylejeanbaptiste @54Below pic.twitter.com/Kfu7ZBXUHT
— Broadway Buzz (@broadway_buzz) October 6, 2015