We are very sorry to hear that performer, speaker and singer Byron Nease,who was 59 years old, was found dead last night.
In 1985 he was diagnosed HIV-positive and lived bravely and successfully with the disease for 28 years, one of the topics he discussed in his 2008 autobiography, Behind the Mask . . . No More.
Making his Broadway debut opposite Angela Lansbury as Patrick in Mame, he has, in the past twenty years, played most of the romantic heroes in the American Musical Theater. His portrayal of Raoul in Andrew Lloyd Weber’s The Phantom of the Opera contrasted sharply to his role as the Phantom in the beautiful Kopit/Yeston Phantom. Across the US audiences have thrilled to his portrayals in Camelot, Annie Get Your Gun, A Little Night Music, West Side Story, Carousel, South Pacific to name just a few.
He played the part of Raoul in the 1989 Original cast of The Phantom of the Opera opposite Rebecca Caine as Christine Daae and Colm Wilkinson as The Phantom.
On hearing the news, his longtime friend Rebecca Caine wrote on Twitter on Thursday. “Distraught to tell you that my precious Byron Nease was found dead last night. The bravest man I’ll ever know is at peace.”
Quotes from the Byron Nease official website:
“Growing up in the great tradition of leading men, Byron’s charisma has more to do with heart than style … truth than bravado … courage and dignity than false machismo.”
“It seems my whole life has been about what it means to be a leading man … personally and professionally. I’m the luckiest guy I know because I love what I do … I am grateful”.
Rebecca Caine and Byron Nease, stars of the original Canadian production of Phantom of the Opera, sing “All I Ask of You” during a telethon in April, 1990.
Rest in peace Byron Nease.