the Broadway spotlight but Jason Raize
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
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
Mr Rothenberg was telephoned by Yass
police last week with the news of
his son's suicide. He said details were
"It's not important to me to know all the
details about his death
because it doesn't change anything,'' he
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
"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
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
"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
Mr Raize's funeral service will be held in
his home town of Oneonta,