July 20, 1975
Oneonta, New York
February 3, 2004 (age 28)
Jason Raize (July 20, 1975 – February 3, 2004) was an American actor, singer, and humanitarian. He is best known for his roles as adult Simba in the stage musical version of The Lion King and Denahi in the animated Disney film Brother Bear.
Born as Jason Rothenberg, he grew up in the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York, and was eventually one of three adopted children. However, his adoptive mother died when he was three, and was re-adopted by his stepmother. Jason eventually started his acting career as a teenager when his mother enrolled him in a summer Shakespeare workshop. In high school, after his parents' divorce, he moved with his father to Oneonta, New York, where Jason performed in high school plays at Oneonta's Orpheus Theatre playing Chico in West Side Story. He moved to New York City after high school where he briefly attended the American Musical and Dramatic Academy.
Opting out of continuing performing at the AMDA, he spent the summer of 1994 at the Bucks County Playhouse in Pennsylvania performing in Oklahoma! (as Jess/Dream Curly), The King and I (as Lun Tha), Phantom (in the title role), and The Rocky Horror Show (as Rocky)..
At age 19, Jason was cast in his first national tour of Jesus Christ Superstar, starring Ted Neely and Carl Anderson, succeeding Dennis DeYoung of Styx fame in the role of Pontinus Pilate, receiving rave reviews. Next, he toured with Miss Saigon, and had been cast as a swing in a national tour of The King and I starring Hayley Mills when he decided to audition for Julie Taymor's upcoming Broadway production of The Lion King. Ultimately, Jason Raize won the role of adult Simba, became part of one of the biggest Broadway hits of the 1990s. From 1997 to 2000, with The Lion King, Jason performed "Endless Night" and "He Lives in You" on The Rosie O'Donnell Show, "Hakuna Matata" on Live with Regis and Kathie Lee, as well as "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" on Good Morning America.
In May 1999, Jason co-produced a benefit for refugees from Kosovo, Russia at the Kit Kat Klub. In October 1999, the United Nations Environment Programme appointed Jason 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." UNEP believed that The Lion King conveyed these ideas and that Jason, as a Goodwill Ambassador, would help environmental messages become more known.
Shortly after his debut in The Lion King, Raize signed a deal with Universal Records for his first solo album, NYC, recording ten songs including two singles, "Taste the Tears" released in December 1999 and "You Win Again" in June 2000. In summer 2000, Jason 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 Jason's songs, "I Can Make it Without You," "You Win Again," "Lovin' You Lovin' Me," "Run Away Girl," and "NYC." However, his album was never released.
After three years performing in The Lion King, Jason performed his last show as Simba on August 20, 2000, and returned to Broadway in January 2001 to star as Joe in Carmen Jones.  Raize later starred in the made-for-TV-movie The Kitchen which premiered on PBS in June 2001. Next, Jason's television series, Keeping it Wild with Jason Raize. premiered as a nationally-syndicated program in which Jason visited exotic locations such as Africa, Costa Rica, and Australia to learn about animals in their natural habitats. This show aired until April 2002.
The following year, Raize performed the voice of Denahi in the animated film, Brother Bear, and returned to Australia to rethink his career path. There, 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. On February 7, 2004, Jason's body was found hanging in a shed on the farm property. A missing persons report had been filed on February 3, which is also believed to be the time of his death. Jason's death was ruled a suicide.
A memorial service was open to the public took place on April 8, 2004, at the New Amsterdam Theatre, where Jason performed his role as Simba. The service included speeches by Jason's sister, Lisa, and Disney Theatricals' President, Tom Schumacher, a performance by Jason's former Lion King co-star Heather Headley, a slide show and home movies from Jason's childhood, clips of Jason performing in Lion King and on television, and a traditional South African celebration of passing into the next world led by cast members of The Lion King.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 The Raize Resource: Biography.
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Patrick Pacheco, "Raize of Light," InTheater, January 23, 1998, 16-19.
- ↑ "1994," Bucks County Playhouse website, http://buckscountyplayhouse.com/bucks-playhouse/1994.php, accessed October 2, 2010 (no longer online).
- ↑ John Flautz, " 'King And I' Rules Beautifully At Bucks County Playhouse," The Morning Call, July 30, 1994, http://articles.mcall.com/1994-07-30/news/2994217_1_lun-tha-tuptim-lady-thiang, accessed September 17, 2011.
- ↑ TalkCity.com chat with Jason Raize, June 1, 1998.
- ↑ raizeresource's Channel, http://www.youtube.com/user/raizeresource, accessed August 17, 2012.
- ↑ Jeannie Williams, "Stars Stand Up to be Counted for Kosovo," USA Today, May 5, 1999.
- ↑ "Companies to be Honored with Inaugural WILD Awards for Responsible Use of Wildlife in Advertising / UNEP to Name Lion King's Simba, Actor/Recording Artist Jason Raize, as Goodwill Ambassador," United Nations Environment Programme, October 22, 1999.
- ↑ "Close-up: Music: Jessica Simpson and Jason Raize in Concert," TV Guide, June 24, 2000.
- ↑ raizeresource's Channel, http://www.youtube.com/user/raizeresource, accessed September 17, 2011.
- ↑ "The Kitchen," Independent Television Service, http://www.itvs.org/thekitchen/, accessed August 17, 2012.
- ↑ John Leonard, "Urban Legends," New York Magazine, June 18, 2001, http://nymag.com/nymetro/arts/tv/reviews/4807/, accessed August 17, 2012.
- ↑ "Keeping It Wild With Jason Raize" episode guide, AOL Television, accessed April 26, 2010 (no longer online).
- ↑ 14.0 14.1 Candace Sutton and Chris Sams, "Mystery over stage star's death in bush," The Sun-Herald, February 15, 2004, http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2004/02/14/1076548275532.html?from=storyrhs, accessed 17 August 2012.