Jason Forbach has made a name for himself in two of the biggest Broadway hits of all time, first in the extravagant Phantom of the Opera which just closed in Las Vegas and now in the re-imagined 25th Anniversary tour of Les Miserables (opening at ASU Gammage tomorrow). Coincidentally, an all-star film version will be hitting the big screen in December featuring Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway and Russell Crowe. Forbach feels that the film will help bring audiences to his production, where they will be blown away by the show’s newly cinematic feel and energy.
Forbach most often played the role of Raoul among other parts in Vegas’ Phantom, which featured a truly “crashing” chandelier and a sleek ninety minute run time perfect for Vegas attention spans. He is sad to see the show close after six years and took a brief break from Les Miz to be with the cast at its closing. “It really was one-of-a-kind, it was so beautiful. I had a lot of different shoes to fill (on that production). I probably went on about a hundred times as Raoul. I played a lot of different parts in that show and I loved them all.”
“I play Enjolras, who is the student leader of this revolution that happens during the course of the show,” Forbach explained about his role in Les Miz, laughing when asked if it could be called Occupy Paris. “It could be. (The show) seems to have so much to do with what’s going on in our world now as it did then in Nineteenth Century France, when you think of the uprisings in Syria and Egypt. People are rising up to protest what’s happening on Wall Street and they’re realizing that they have a powerful voice. I think there’s a big message about that in Les Miz.”
“First of all, it’s completely reconceived and directed,” Forbach explained, describing what makes the new tour different from productions you may have seen. “The whole focus, style-wise, is an emphasis on these projections we have that are inspired by the artwork of (Les Miserables author) Victor Hugo. You almost feel like you are watching living, moving art and it’s overwhelming when you see it.”
“It’s more cinematic in scope and feel, and the energy is new and raw and fresh, and everyone is just biting into this text. For all of the diehard fans, they’ll see everything that they have grown to love and expect when they go to Les Miz, but they’ll also see something new.” Forbach feels proud when he sees how passionate audiences are about this new production.
Forbach is excited to see what The King’s Speech director Tom Hooper does with the film, noting that he came to see their production in Chicago and seems to be taking a cue from the show’s gritty and real depictions of the horrors and triumphs on the characters. “It looks really beautiful.”
Forbach grew up in Overland Park, Kansas. “I was really fortunate to have supportive parents,” he explained. They encouraged him to pursue what made him happy, leading to the decision after school to perform in theater rather than opera. He began his career in 2005 and is grateful for the long employment both Phantom and Les Miz have provided him. He also enjoys doing shows like Into the Woods at Regional Theatres on breaks
from Phantom and Les Miz, since it “wakes up the creative mind.”
“I have one full length albumcalled A New Leading Man,” he explained. “It’s my first album so I wanted to introduce myself, but it also features songs by unconventional leading men characters by modern musical theater composers.” He also released a holiday CDcalled Remembering to Dream featuring the title song which he co-wrote. Both albums are available from Amazon.
Causes like Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and Las Vegas’ homeless assistance program called Family Promise are very important to Forbach. “It helps give homeless families the tools they need to survive, especially in this economy.” He continues to volunteer with the cast of Les Miz as well. “We’re always conscious of helping out while we can, and if we can help out with music and bring attention and awareness through music, I think that’s a beautiful thing.”
He finished the interview by saying how much he and the cast loved playing Gammage last year, and he is happy that they are returning. “When we played Tempe, the audiences just blew the roof off the joint. We could not believe the enthusiasm there, so I’m excited to return because it just energizes our show to know that the audiences are so into it.”
Interview by Neil Cohen, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Phoenix's Echo Magazine.