So many talented performers come through the Idaho Shakespeare Festival company. Some are only here for one summer, others return regularly. But you always wonder where they go after they wow us here.
Well, one performer is now on Broadway and will make an auspicious debut this week.
Kyle Jean-Baptiste played Enjolras, the rousing leader of the student rebellion, in ISF’s “Les Miserables” last season. Now he is in the Broadway company of that musical in the ensemble and as Courfeyrac, one of the other students. He also is an understudy for the role of Jean Valjean.
Kyle is scheduled to go on in that role on July 23, making him at 21 one of the youngest to sing the role in the production’s history.
“It feels amazing to be here. I’m so grateful and humbled,” he said on a rehearsal break earlier this month. “It’s a dream come true. I can’t believe they’ve trusted me with this role.”
Jean-Baptiste is a dynamic performer with a powerful voice. He came to ISF through director Victoria Bussert who hired him out of her musical theater program at Baldwin Wallace University in Cleveland. He performed Enjolras in Boise and at Cleveland’s Great Lakes Theater before heading to New York.
The current Broadway production is part of the movement to reinvent the musical that made its original premiere in Paris in 1980. It’s now the longest running musical in the world with five international productions currently and one coming in 2016. The Broadway cast stars 37-year-old Iranian-Canadian actor Ramin Karimloo as a younger and more virile interpretation of Jean Valjean.
For Jean-Baptiste the opportunity to play the character who is unjustly imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread, offers parallels to his heritage.
“Being an African American man I can have a different look at the role of this man who is a slave to the law,” he says. “You can’t get away from the fact that certain lines have more meaning because I’m black.”