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Jason Raize

Raize as Simba in The Lion King
Born Jason Rothenberg
July 20, 1975(1975-07-20)
Oneonta, New York, USA
Died February 3, 2004 (aged 28)
Yass, New South Wales, Australia
Occupation Actor, humanitarian

Jason Raize (July 20, 1975, Oneonta, New York – February 3, 2004, Yass, New South Wales, Australia) was a former Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Environment Program and actor. He was best known for his roles as the adult Simba in the Broadway stage musical version of The Lion King, and Denahi in the animated Disney film, Brother Bear.

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Career

Born as Jason Rothenberg in Oneonta, New York, where he was raised, Jason started acting when he was a teenager. In the summer of 1994, having changed his surname to Raize, he performed at the Bucks County Playhouse in La Cage aux Folles, Oklahoma!, The King and I (as "Lun Tha"), The Phantom of the Opera (title role), and The Rocky Horror Picture Show (as "Rocky"). He also appeared in Gypsy: A Musical Fable, West Side Story, Twelfth Night, and in national tours of Jesus Christ Superstar (with Ted Neeley) and Miss Saigon.

Raize appeared on Broadway in The King and I, and originated the role of "Simba" in Julie Taymor's Broadway production of The Lion King (1997). During his time with The Lion King, Raize performed Endless Night and He Lives in You on The Rosie O'Donnell Show, as well as Can You Feel the Love Tonight? on Good Morning America twice.

In September 1998, Raize recorded the Simon & Garfunkel's The Sounds of Silence for the Paul Simon Album: Broadway Sings the Best of Paul Simon. The album also featured Christiane Noll, Jose Llana, Lauren Kennedy, Jane Krakowski, and Sal Viviano.

In 1999, Raize organized a benefit for refugees from Kosovo at the New Amsterdam Theatre. E! Fashion Emergency covered the event. In October 1999, the United Nations appointed Raize a Goodwill Ambassador "for his commitment and dedication to furthering the cause of the environment through the use of his creative talents to inspire respect for our natural heritage and to promote the conservation and sustainable use of the earth's resources".

Raize released two singles under Universal Records ("Taste the Tears" and "You Win Again"), both produced by Desmond Child (who is also Ricky Martin's producer.) His debut CD, scheduled to be released by Universal Records, was called NYC, but was not officially released.

In summer 2000, Raize and Jessica Simpson starred in a Disney Channel special called Jessica Simpson and Jason Raize in Concert. The concert was filmed in Disneyland and featured Raize singing You Win Again, I Can Make It Without You, and NYC.

Raize returned to the New York theater scene in January 2001 for a concert performance of Carmen Jones. His made-for-TV-movie The Kitchen aired on PBS the following fall. That same fall, Raize teamed with producer Sue Ann Taylor of Blue Heron Films to create the television series Keeping It Wild, which was nationally syndicated. This show featured Raize in exotic locations such as Africa and Panama learning about animals in their natural habitats.

Raize also provided the voice of Denahi in the 2003 Disney animated feature Brother Bear.

Death

After filming a nature documentary, Keeping It Wild With Jason Raize, Raize went to Australia without his family's knowledge to rethink his career path. Sarah MacArthur, his mother, said "[Jason] needed to step back and catch his breath. I don't think he had figured it out yet [what to do next]". He took a job working as a general hand at a stud farm in Yass, New South Wales called Hardwicke Stud. (Owned by olympic gold medalist Lawrence Morgan) This was also a place where he had friends whom he met while filming there in 2001.

At 11:15 am on February 7, 2004, Raize's body was found hanged in a shed on the farm property. A missing persons report had been filed on February 3rd, also believed to be the time of death. Raize's death was ruled a suicide.[1]

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Posthumous

A memorial service for Raize was held on April 8, 2004, at the New Amsterdam Theatre where Raize had performed as Simba seven years earlier. The service included speeches by Raize's sister, Lisa, and Disney Theatrical's Thomas Schumacher, a performance by Raize's former The Lion King co-star Heather Headley, a slide show and home movies from Raize's younger days, clips of Raize performing in The Lion King and a montage from his Keeping it Wild television series. The service ended with a traditional South African celebration of passing into the next world led by cast members of The Lion King .

For young people starting out as actors, Raize gave the following advice: "First off, involve yourself in any project in your immediate area. That will give you a taste for what you like to do, because there are so many different styles of performance art, and you don't want to do something that ultimately you don't like. After that, find supporters and adults around you, and then make the move to a major performing arts community in the world - usually New York, Los Angeles or Chicago. Then involve yourself in a class, to work with teachers and other actors, but also to introduce you to people doing the same thing you are, and will give you good friends."

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