LES MISERABLES is one of the most beloved stories by theatre fans all around the globe. Based on the book by Victor Hugo, it tells the story of one man's fight for redemption and touches on the universal themes of forgiveness, love, and loyalty. Jason Forbach plays Enjolras in the current U.S. Tour cast. Originally from Kansas, Jason grew up playing music and later went on to earn a Master of Arts in vocal performance. He finally realized his passion for musical theatre and moved to New York to pursue the dream. Jason was kind enough to answer some questions about his experiences defending the barricades.
What was it that first drew you to the theatre and inspired you to want to perform professionally?
I've always loved all kinds of theatre and music. I played all kinds of instruments when I was younger, so I was a musician first and was honestly a little too shy to be a music theatre kid. I started as a journalism major and realized my passion was music. I got my masters in opera and performed with them, and then realized that that I had been denying myself of what I loved. Then I moved in 2005, so it's something that I've always known but I didn't always allow myself to pursue, so I'm kind of new to the game.
What would you tell someone or what advice do you have for someone who, like you were, may be too shy to pursue theatre?
Well we always have a lot of different interests, and it proves to me that there's no timeline on anything if you come to terms with what your real passion is and you get the guts to pursue it. The right time is always at that moment when you make that decision and it doesn't matter how old you are. My family has always been pretty supportive and it turned in my favor. To those who are at a desk job or maybe waiting tables, that dream can always stay alive if the passion is there.
What was your very first experience with LES MISERABLES, even before you were in the cast? Did you read the book, see one of the movie adaptations, or the show?
I saw the show several times and I was a huge fan of the show. I auditioned for the 2006 revival and they wouldn't even let me in the door because I was a non-union actor. I've always loved the show. I saw it when I was little growing up in Kansas City, and just like everyone else it blew me away. I fell in love with the character Enjolras. I've always loved him and was so impressed by him, and thought wow I could never play that role. I read the book in its entirety when I booked the show, which was a massive undertaking, but I'm so glad I did it. It's great to apply what's in the book to my performance. The show is three hours, but there's so much in the book that's not on stage that helps inform who these people are.
Has being a part of the cast given you a different understanding or appreciation for the show than you had before you were in the cast?
I think so. I think we have to live through this revolution every night and we have to rally support for a cause we believe so much in, and fight and die. And, we see our brothers die and make difficult choice and I think in experiencing that I have such a deeper understanding in my own life of what it's like to fight for what you believe in. I have a greater connection to my friends, and when you say goodbye or mourn a loss, you know, we go through those things every night. I'm more emotionally connected to what we're fighting for on stage as well as off stage. The struggles these characters are facing are so universal and everyone is fighting for redemption and love. It's Valjean's second chance to make his life right and everyone can relate to that. It reaches young and old, and everyone is connected to this story. There are so many people who were only exposed to it [the show] through their high school productions and Glee and television, and it's creating a younger audience for us. You can hear the younger audiences screaming and applauding after every number, and it's amazing to have that energy in the theatre every night.
LES MISERABLES is such a compelling love story, and not really a love story in the way you might at first think. What do you think makes LES MISERABLES different from other more traditional boy-meets-girl love stories?
I think it is first and foremost a story of one man's redemption, and the love that comes out of that is for Cosette and for wanting her to continue on in the best possible life he [Valjean] could provide for her. And, I think that is what touches people most. I think that's the centerpiece of the story.