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<< Daily Telegraph article (February 12)

Australian Associated Press
Depressed Broadway Star Dies
in Australia on Retreat
by Samantha Baden
February 11, 2004

A young American Broadway and television star retreated to Australia, a country he loved, to deal with personal problems stemming from his fame.

But Jason Raize's quest ended in death when he took his own life on a property in southern NSW, friends said today.

He was just 28.

Raize, one of the stars of the original Broadway production of The Lion King, was found dead at the Yass property on February 7, according to Yass Police.

Following a successful career on stage and on TV, Raize arrived in
Australia six or seven months ago, declaring he wanted to deal with his depression, said Australian friend, artist and gallery owner Peter Crisp.

"He had been depressed and was going through a lot of issues," said Mr Crisp, who had met the New York-based performer, whose real name was Rothenberg, during his earlier 2001 visit to

"He came to
Australia to retreat and probably to deal with issues stemming from his fame."

Raize spent time in Sydney and Armidale before moving shortly before Christmas to a property near Yass, to whose owner he had been introduced by Mr Crisp.

There he had been doing odd jobs in exchange for food and board, according to the property's owner, who asked not to be named.

Raize was last seen on the morning of February 2 and was reported missing to police the next day.

His body was found in a hay shed on February 7.

Mr Crisp said Raize had looked forward to returning to
Australia since his first visit in 2001, when the young star was shooting a series of wildlife programs for US TV called Keeping It Wild.

"He loved the experience he'd had in
Australia previously, (and) he talked about it as one of his happiest times ever," said Mr Crisp, who is based in Yass.

"Once he got back to
America, he always talked about Australia and wanting to come back here, and he did exactly that."

The owner of the Yass property remembered the entertainer as "an adorable person".

"I didn't know Jason very well. He was an adorable person," she said.

"I knew he was having a few problems, but I didn't know terribly much about them."

She said Raize did not speak much about himself.

"He was a beautiful person and he had a smile that would just light up the world.

"Perhaps he's been a victim of all the good things that had happened to him."

Raize made his name in the original Broadway production of The Lion King, a production of which is currently playing in

Raize played the older Simba in the musical, based on Disney's animated film and which opened on Broadway in November 1997. He kept the part for nearly three years.

Disney Australia Theatrical Production managing director James Thane said Raize had attended an October preview of the Australian production of The Lion King.

"Other than that we've had no contact with him," Mr Thane said.

Raize, from upstate
New York
, had performed in a variety of stage productions including a "Jesus Christ Superstar" tour with Ted Neeley and later a "King and I" tour starring Hayley Mills.

He also used his talents to address concerns for the environment and was named an Ambassador of Goodwill for the UN Environment Program.

Raize most recently lent his voice to the character of Denahi in Disney's 2003 animated feature film Brother Bear.

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