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The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, Australia)
Broadway's Star Lonely Death on a Farm in Yass
by Anna Cock
February 12, 2004

He lived his life in the Broadway spotlight but Jason Raize chose to end it in rural obscurity.

The New York entertainment community is mourning the death of Raize, who committed suicide near Yass last week.

The 28-year-old stage star, who played Simba in the original New York production of The Lion King, killed himself on a property outside the town.

During the past few months the singer, actor, stage performer and TV host had been in Australia visiting friends, including internationally renowned glass artist Peter Crisp.

The host of television wildlife series Keeping It Wild had not told his family exactly where he was.

Raize, whose impressive list of stage credits included Jesus Christ Superstar, The King and I, Miss Saigon, Gypsy, West Side Story and The Rocky Horror Show, had apparently been ``dealing with issues in his life'' for the past two years.

After his critically acclaimed Broadway run as Simba in The Lion King ended in 2000, he travelled the world as the host of Keeping It Wild.

"He was in Australia to work for the TV program and also made a trip to meet people and one of them was from Yass, Peter Crisp,'' his father Robert Rothenberg, 60, said in New York yesterday. "I think he went to Australia [again] because he had friends there.''

Mr Rothenberg was telephoned by Yass police last week with the news of his son's suicide. He said details were vague.

"It's not important to me to know all the details about his death because it doesn't change anything,'' he said.

As for the reasons behind Raize's decision to end his life, Mr Rothenberg said: "It's something I dont want to speculate on because how can I possibly try to figure out what is in someone's mind?''

Speaking in Yass yesterday, Mr Crisp told The Daily Telegraph his close friend had been in a happy mood at a 40th birthday party held in the town two weeks ago.

He had thrilled guests with renditions of musical numbers from Les Miserables and The Lion King.

Mr Crisp said Raize faced issues in his life which had changed him.

"The Jason Raize that I knew 2 1/2 years ago was a different person to the Jason Raize who came to Australia last year,'' he said.

"He was absolutely extroverted. He wanted to be in every conversation.

"But certain things have occurred in his life.

"There were issues, there were certain issues he was facing.''

Mr Crisp said he and Raize shared similar interests -- including charities, conservation and broader world issues.

The day after the party, Sunday January 25, was the last time Mr Crisp ever saw Jason.

It was then he said Jason pulled him aside and told him: ``I'm so very grateful for you to have given me this opportunity to be living with this family and to be out in the country''.

"Australia was such a positive thing for him that he chose to come back to Australia to really catch up and re-focus,'' Mr Crisp said.

Mr Crisp said he would remember Raize as an "incredible'' person.

"He was just a great person. Anyone who met Jason was just overwhelmed by his generosity and kindness,'' he said.

"There was just something magical in his character.''

Mr Raize's funeral service will be held in his home town of Oneonta, New York.

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