What’s up with the cast of Les Mis? Is it just me or do some of the cutest actors star in the show? Jason Forbach as Enjolras (one of my favorite characters in Les Mis) is pretty darn dreamy, and he was a pleasure to interview. Enjoy!
Congratulations on your phenomenal role in Les Mis! You were outstanding! The ABC Cafe scene is one of my favorites of the show! Can you start from the beginning with this role? Where were you when you heard you got cast and what was your reaction? A lot of jumping up and down?
Thank you so much. I’m so thrilled to hear that you love the show…and specifically the Cafe Scene. It ain’t easy! Ha! Well, I was a part of the original 25th Anniversary Tour Cast. I was initially cast as Feuilly and after an extensive casting process found out in the spring of 2010. I think I was in a Whole Foods with my friend Jeffrey…and I think I freaked out. It was just short of 2 years later when I got the call that I was going to take over as Enjolras. Even that casting had been a long process, multiple auditions, many phone calls and waiting. And that was even after I had played the role many times. I think we must have been in Rochester with the tour at the time. It was freezing and there was nothing to do but I didn’t care because I was so thrilled about how this part was about to change my life.
Once you accepted the role, how did you prepare to play such a passionate, fiery character?
I had already spent a lot of time trying to grasp the idea of this powerful leader. How do you play a great leader? What is it that makes many want to follow the ideas of a single man? It wasn’t until it was something that could inhabit my skin every night on stage that I could allow it to seep in. I re-read sections of The Brick. I read an interesting book about mental health and illness in relationship to our greatest leaders called A First Rate Madness. I worked on my physicality. I’ve watched great leaders speak and how they address their people. It felt completely foreign but it was structuring who this man was. I tried to funnel my own passions into the energy that is Enjolras’ passion. That passionate energy was never a challenge to harness….it was everything else. My primary focus was to bring a new element in that I had never seen before. I wanted him to be almost “of the people” as he walks amongst them. I wanted him to reach out and be able to touch these people he cared so much about…to touch them…to empathize and have them see themselves in him. Enjolras’ undone cravat and rolled up sleeves are no different a concept than Obama speaking in the midwest without a jacket and his sleeves rolled up. He is powerful but he is not afraid to connect with those whom he leads.
You’ve done over 700 performances!! What do you do to keep your energies up and the character fresh and yourself from getting bored? And also, how do you keep yourself from getting injured climbing up that elaborate set during the final sequences of the show! Enjolras is certainly a very physical role!
We are celebrating 900 performances this week! Time flies, right? Keeping energy and strength up is the challenge. I don’t think I could ever get bored. The work is just too hard. There is no time to let your heart rate or focus down. There are always different audiences, different actors on for different parts, changes happen constantly! Keeping ourselves from getting injured….that’s a different story. What we do is extremely strenuous and dangerous. I’ve gotten cuts and bruises, near misses, dislocated ribs, even a mild concussion. We have had all kinds of scary moments and they are our barricade injuries. Almost a rite of passage at this point. It’s no big deal! We are much better about taking care of our bodies now as opposed to when we first started.
Enjolras is always an audience-favorite. What do you think it is that appeals so much to people?
Aside from the powerful and iconic music, I think he embodies such strength in his commitment and laser focused passion that is something that not everyone posses but something that everyone admires. These people are very rare, but they are the people that change the world.
Speaking of which, Les Miserable itself is one of the juggernauts of musical theater. It’s a masterpiece. What do you think accounts for its staying power?
It is a combination of a brilliantly adapted musical with epic, classic melodies and orchestrations of a story that connects with everyone and reminds us all to feel. The ubiquitousness of the story is so raw and beautiful. A story of redemption…of one man’s quest to right a wrong. These stories are ultimate love stories that aren’t fantasy…they are very, very real.
Alright, back to Enjolras. :) You have been receiving some amazing reviews! So first, bravo! They are all very well deserved. But my question is how do you handle reviews? Do you read them, do you let them affect you, do you stay away from them? And how important should reviews be to any performer?
Thank you, again. I feel incredibly fortunate. I’m ok with reviews….good or bad. I am confident in myself and what I am able to put out there as an artist. I’m only human and I can only do my best. I work very hard and I always try my best. I am far from pompous or conceited but I’m not fragile, either. I want everyone to like the work that I do…who doesn’t?! I understand that art is subjective and the work that I do may not be for everyone… and that is ok. I’m just saying a bad review won’t break me. Just this past Sunday matinee was a challenge because I had trouble sleeping…I probably only got about 4 hours but I still came to work and gave 100% and was committed to the story. I was beyond exhausted and maybe it wasn’t my best show but I gave it my best shot and I do every time Enjolras walks out on the stage. We are all real people with real problems, mortgages and bills, relationships to maintain, families to worry about and we manage to leave those all at the stage door. I am completely committed to this character and this production, specifically, and, in the end, I think that must come through. I hope it does. :)
You’ve been touring all over the country with this production. Any stand out moments so far?
We’ve performed all over! The KennedyCenter, in front of Vice President Biden, on America’s Got Talent but the most “stand out” moment in our show’s history for me was in front of hundreds of friends and family in Kansas City…where I grew up. Everyone in my life was there, my Grandmothers who might not have been able to travel to see me were there. My childhood teachers, friends and loved ones….that kind of experience won’t happen again. Definitely a stand out.
How have you been enjoying Pittsburgh?
Well, it has been incredibly cold! We’ve been laying low mostly…watching a lot of movies and working out a great deal. To counter that I will say I’ve gotten some amazing strawberry pancakes at Pamela’s!
Let’s switch gears a moment. You released two cds recently. They are amazing and show such artistry and voice control and it gives me goose bumps! You have such a rich voice and the songs show it off perfectly. What made you decide to record at this stage in your career, and especially to record an original song, Remembering to Dream? It’s a brave, yet scary thing to do!
Thanks! The recording projects are my true passion life blood. I absolutely love being in the studio and, if money were no object, I would be in there all the time. I’m the biggest music buff you’ve ever met. I’ve been listening to albums since I was a very little boy. It is a dream realized. It is incredibly nerve-wracking to put this material out there because it is out there for all posterity….for the entire world to consume! An original song leaves even less room to hide behind. ”Remembering To Dream” is a complete 100% look into my life. I’m planning on doing the process all over again. I’ve already begun recording a new single called “Revolutionary” which is greatly inspired by my experience with this show playing a revolutionary on stage every night. It is a true, unfiltered look at my thoughts poetically expressed in song. It is so easy to be bad….to be critiqued and torn apart….but I don’t care! If artists were scared away from creating we would have a dark, grim world. It may not always be great but we keep creating until it is great.
You sing such romantic songs on your cd. In fact, I read on mizzoumag that you consider yourself a pretty big romantic! I’ve got to ask: what’s the most romantic thing you’ve ever done?? (You so don’t have to answer that if you don’t want to! I realize most of these questions have been about Les Mis, but I just couldn’t resist.) :)
I’m gonna let this question remain unanswered. Maybe my most romantic act has yet to be done….
What’s next? I know Les Mis will keep you pretty busy for the foreseeable future, but will you record again? I know you’re involved in various charities. Any plans to do anything with those?
I’m working on a concert in May which can be very daunting. The single. After the tour, who knows!? It is scary and exciting. Who knows what the next chapter will be but I hope it is more of the same. I’m incredibly happy right now.
Finally, following dreams is a very big theme in your life. Anyone who listens to your song, Remembering to Dream, knows how important it is to you. What advice do you have for people who want to follow dreams, however big or outlandish they may seem?
I’m such a dreamer! I fantasize all day every day. You may have to risk something small and make a leap that may seem scary but there is no telling what greatness you will achieve. I’m all about dreams and goals and making a plan to pursue them everyday. My mother always told me that you should do something, no matter how small, to slowly step toward your dream….and I believe it. There isn’t a single quote about dreaming that doesn’t resound within me.
“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.” Henry David Thoreau
and my favorite…
“Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake.” Henry David Thoreau
*Happy sigh. Told you Jason was fun to interview. And it’s not too late to see him and the rest of the dream team in action. Go here for more ticket info. Seriously. Go. Right now. Tell them I sent you.