Q & A with Jason Forbach
Q: Tell us about how you got the tour of Les Misérables.
Jason: I auditioned a few months after I got back to New York after doing Phantom. It was a rigorous process. Multiple auditions and callbacks. Multiple packets of different sides. We were always learning new music for each meeting. We were called as a group near the end for a full day of improvisational work, group energy exercises, etc... It was incredibly stressful and definitely the hardest audition process I've ever experienced.
Q: What is different about this production versus the past productions of Les Misérables?
Jason: This production feels so different in that it seems so fresh and raw. The rehearsal process was nothing less than boot camp. We were working so hard, delving into the characters, improvising, creating moments so that everyone on stage is telling a specific story. Aside from the intensity of the work onstage, this production is completely restaged and the production's design is based around the paintings of Victor Hugo. We use projections as living, moving art. It is truly stunning. When Valjean is walking through the sewers it is as if you are completely transported there. You don't have any time to think about how much you miss the turntable. You are transported back into that time. It's as if you are in this world...inside the art.
Q: Tell us about an actor’s lifestyle "on the road".
Jason: After doing Phantom for 3 years, I definitely wanted to experience "life on the road". You get to see the country and do all kinds of amazing things when you are traveling with a show and on off-time, it’s like a never-ending vacation....but as in real life, vacation does get tiring. In truth, it can be very exhausting. You have to accept that it is your real life. You are not a 24/7 tourist. We are traveling a lot on our days off. We are constantly in planes and at airports and up at weird hours so it can be a tricky thing to stay healthy. For me, the key is exercise, eating well and INCREDIBLE amounts of sleep. If I do not get enough rest, I get sick immediately. I have my own regimens of sinus rinses and allergy medication that I've learned works for me after doing shows in the past. You are in different climates and elevations from week-to-week and each theater can throw you off. Drinking lots of water helps!
Q: How do hotels work?
We are given an option of staying in a hotel designated by the company or branching out on our own. I typically stay in the hotel unless we are in a city for longer than 3 weeks and then I make an effort to find an apartment in the city. Sometimes it is nice to have a kitchen and all that.
Q: How does touring financially benefit an actor?
The money is definitely worth the time. I think life on the road is the only way an actor can "get ahead" financially. You are able to save and prepare for the unemployed times in your life, which there will be many. When you are traveling, you have less bills hanging over your head. This opportunity has been a godsend for me. I've been able to pay off the student loans I've had for my Master’s Degree and become debt free.
Q: What about keeping in touch with family/friends?
You definitely have to make a concerted effort to stay in touch with family and friends back home. This touches on not being a "tourist". You really want to see everything that the city has in store for you, but you must also balance what you need to do to be rested so you can do your show, have the time to reconnect with loved ones and allow time to get all of your "life" errands accomplished. It is a strange life but you must adopt that it is your real, everyday life.
Q: How do you feel about missing opportunities such as other performing gigs and/or big auditions in NYC because of being “on the road”?
Jason: I'm glad you ask this question about missing opportunities. It is VERY easy to feel as if New York is grooving right along and you are missing hundreds of shows/auditions/opportunities. I often felt that when I was in Las Vegas with Phantom. I, personally, think it is a trap. A grass is always greener thing. You can spend a lot of time and money flying to auditions in New York and it can often be in conflict with your current job which is paying you a very good salary to be there. New York will always have new shows. There will always be the next "cool" thing happening there. You have to be present and happy in the job you are currently invested in or take a long, hard look at whether you should move on. I'm not saying you shouldn't stay connected and interested in what is happening in the theater world. It is your work and you should be informed. And auditions will always pop up. I'm just saying that I feel this is a common theme with younger actors who have less life responsibilities and want to just get credits on their resume. I feel as if older actors understand that being employed is a blessing and being employed in a long-running show is like finding a unicorn. It is a rarity and one must not take it for granted. You want to hold on to it and make the most of it. If you find yourself uninspired after doing the show for however long, USE the show as a spring board for other projects or creative endeavors to keep your mind fresh. That is why I do benefit concerts or have recorded albums. I've taken classes. I've gotten involved in my community. These are all things that keep you from resenting the work you do and keep your creative brain fresh.
Q: How do you keep the part fresh having to do if for months at a time?
Jason: Well, some days are easier than others. Fortunately, or unfortunately, we are always having new cast members and different people in different tracks quite often and I feel that allows you to have to focus in new ways. I'm always thinking of something new for me to work on and discover. Enjolras, in a full-time way, is something relatively new to me...about 3 months now... so ask me again in a year! HA!
Q: Any advice for new actors? Actors wanting to do Les Mis?
Jason: My advice to new actors is to continue studying your craft. Learn discipline. Learn new skills all the time. For actors wanting to be in Les Mis, learn EXCELLENT vocal technique. We are taxing our voices to an extreme for 3 hours every night. The vocal range for everyone, ensemble member to Valjean, is extreme. In diversifying our new crop of musical theater students, the concept of good singing is starting to become lost.
Q: Where can we find more info about you?
Jason: I'm on twitter @jtforbach and have a website www.jasonforbach.com. I also have two albums A New Leading Man and a holiday EP Remembering to Dream available on iTunes.
JASON FORBACH Originally from Overland Park, Kansas, Jason grew up with a deep love and appreciation for music. In the womb, his father would place large stereo headphones on his mother’s stomach and feel him dance and kick, to his mother’s dismay, to the beat. He was always singing and performing, whether it be in school plays or on the staircase landing at his Grandmother’s house. His family always knew that they had a future actor on their hands.
Throughout his schooling, Jason continued to expand his artistic interests playing piano, marching with his clarinet in band, taking photography and writing for his school’s paper and literary magazine. He attended University of Missouri-Columbia, his family’s alma mater, on a music scholarship where he majored in Vocal Performance. He performed with both the Opera and Musical Theater departments culminating with a life changing performance of Michael John LaChiusa’s Hello, Again and winning the distinctive honor to be the first vocalist in the school’s history to be named the Chancellor’s Emerging Artist Winner in 2000. At that moment his love for modern musical theater, the power of song interpretation, and the thrill of communicating and sharing an emotional experience with an audience was sparked.
Jason decided to continue his musical training and was accepted at the prestigious New England Conservatory in Boston, MA. He was named the Frelinghuysen Grant Recipient and completed his Master’s Degree in Vocal Performance with honors. He performed on NEC’s main stage in the historic Jordan Hall in many opera performances and recitals. On that same stage he was named a Metropolitan Opera National Council Audition Semi-Finalist for the region. He continued to perform on the opera stage in Boston with both Boston Lyric Opera and Opera Boston. Also during his studies he took an apprenticeship with Central City Opera under his beloved coach John Moriarty. There he studied many opera roles and was named the Spencer Penrose Artist for 2003.
After much reflection and operatic training, Jason made the hard decision that his true love was in the theater performing on the musical stage and not on the operatic path he had found himself. It was almost as if he was starting again from square one, but he decided to make the leap back into the genre he so loved growing up and in college and headed from Boston to New York City.
Once in the Big Apple, Jason, like so many artists before him, struggled to make his way. He was always working multiple jobs and juggling auditions, always treading water to stay afloat. There were few glimmers of hope between small theater jobs and cabaret performances but it was truly a shocking experience being turned down from so many grueling open calls and agent meetings. After many aching hours working odd jobs, moments of hope appeared. Jason was given the opportunity to sing with The New York Festival of Song in a tribute to Hal Prince at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall. There he performed alongside many established Tony winners and Broadway mega stars such as Judy Kaye, Lisa Vroman, Brent Barrett and Jason Daniely. It was truly a life altering experience and was the boost of confidence that Jason needed to know that he was on the right path. Soon thereafter, Jason received his big Off-Broadway break.
Jason was cast as one of the leads in a new work by Wallace Shawn with music composed by his brother Allen Shawn in a play/opera called The Music Teacher. The piece was produced by the prestigious New Group in their 10th Anniversary season. The show would star Broadway veterans Mark Blum and Kelli Overbey and play downtown in the famed off-Broadway theater, The Minetta Lane. The piece truly showcased Jason’s talent as a young actor who had firm footing on the theater stage and vocal maturity to handle the operatic score. The exposure in this production introduced Jason to the New York theater elite and to his much loved agents at Stewart Talent.
After signing with Stewart, Jason found his ability to work and survive as a working actor realizing the life he had always dreamed of. Several regional theater roles followed and Jason found himself performing and traveling all over the Northeast for the remainder of that year. Soon after Jason completed the cast recording of The Music Teacher the following year, he received notice that he was offered his first big production contract with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera in Las Vegas. This new, lavish production of one of the world’s most popular musicals is on a scale like no other proving to be an experience for every performer, as well as every audience member, that is out of this world.
He has recently completed work on a labor of love and a lifetime goal; his first self-produced solo album entitled A NEW LEADING MAN and holiday EP, REMEMBERING TO DREAM which features his songwriting debut, the title track, composed alongside writing partner and jazz pianist Joey Singer. Here he is able to experiment and thrive in musical performance with the music of modern musical theater and jazz that he so deeply loves.
The next journey takes him across the nation as he begins the exciting adventure of joining the National Tour of the 25th Anniversary Production of Les Miserables as Enjolras. He would never have imagined that his life would have brought him to this point, where he is truly happy doing what he loves to do while aspiring to accomplish so much more, always believing in the power of faith when following a dream.