Currently touring with the 25th Anniversary production of Les Miserables alongside his partner of two years, Jason Forbach maintains an extensive career in opera. Thrilled for his solo concert next month, he discusses working with Les Mis, his life of music and theater, inspiration, and growth.
Presently portraying Enjolras, the leader of the student revolution in Les Mis, Forbach describes his experience with the production as one where he has worked the hardest he ever has, but with the greatest reward.
Weighing it against the Phantom of the Opera, which he played in previously, he said, “I always compared Phantom to getting a second Masters Degree. Les Mis is like going to boot camp.”
Forbach explains Enjolras as an entirely different challenge.
“When we created the show back in 2010, I wasn’t sure how I was going to perform something so mentally, physically and vocally demanding 8 shows a week,” Forbach told 429Magazine.
“Now it is in our bones and our blood and has changed my life forever.”
It seems impossible for the role not to make such an immense impact after fully inhabiting Enjolras’ character; encompassing his physicality, “extreme focused passion,” and leadership qualities.
“[Enjolras] is such an iconic figure and I wanted to capture that, to meet the demands of die-hard fans everywhere, but I wanted to bring something else to the table,” Forbach said.
“It was a fascinating journey. I have never seen audiences react, cheer, cry, explode to emotion the way that they do over Les Mis. It is such a powerful show.”
Growing up as a musician, Forbach played several instruments and classical piano. Theater came in after two opera degrees and a stint in the opera world working for the Boston Lyric, Central City Opera, and as a Metropolitan Opera National Council Semi-Finalist.
He began his transition into singing while in college as a journalism major working for a local paper. After receiving scholarship funding as a vocalist from a music school audition, Forbach took to perfecting his vocals.
Theater entered his scope as a fantasy—a project for him to dabble in, but never originally seriously pursued as a career. However, when he got his first big break singing at Carnegie Hall in a tribute concert to Hal Prince, he never turned back.
“It was such a life changing moment and a turn around for me living in New York, working three jobs, struggling to pay rent and suddenly… singing at Carnegie Hall.”
As a firm believer in signs, he took it as an indication to “keep fighting and pursue this dream.”
He explained that once singing was in his life, “theater wasn’t long behind” as it was always a desire of his.
Not long after, he booked the Phantom of the Opera in Las Vegas, performing in Hal Prince’s most beloved show.
Once involved, Forbach was so taken, felt so deeply connected, that he refocused his efforts to dedicate himself it.
“There was always something otherworldly about becoming someone else, truly inhabiting another soul and changing the lives of others… that overwhelmed me,” he said.
“It was almost an intoxicating idea. I wanted to feel so deeply and move an audience as deeply as I had been affected sitting there in the audience. I felt it with every fiber of my being.”
In regards to his solo work, Forbach loves recording in the studio, recently stepping back in to work on his new single “Revolutionary.” He described the piece as an inspirational song “to play with the idea of being revolutionary while [he is]playing a revolutionary on stage every night.”
Forbach also aspires to create a jazz album, a classic musical theater album, and an album of the French chanson…in addition to a plethora of other ideas.
His solo album, A New Leading Man, was recorded with a desperate yearning to introduce the different vocal sides of himself. The title also refers to new leading men in musical theater.
“I wanted to sing songs from theater by modern, up and coming composers that expresses a man that wasn’t just the hero or the villain, but a man shaped by vulnerability, real-life confusion and indecision,” he divulged. “It was something I related to not only as an artist but as a man.”
His concert next month will focus and expand on this New Leading Man idea presenting tracks from the album, Forbach’s career, and his favorites.
Forbach’s inspiration? Everything. Though mostly music, he is also moved by great performances, art, and “seeing people push themselves beyond limits [he]didn’t know were possible.”
Currently in vacation in Amsterdam, he illustrated “a whole new world, culture, style and sense of spirit half way across the world” as extraordinarily inspiring.
“Traveling is such a spark for creative fuel. I traveled to Africa last year and I don’t think I’ve ever been so moved or inspired. Everyone should see the world and go to places they have never imagined they would see in their lifetime.”
Exceedingly passionate about the forward progression that the LGBT community has made, Forbach has done charity work for The Trevor Project, Broadway Cares, and The Richard Ermet AIDS Foundation.
“This is a monumental time in our history,” he said. “So much is changing and it is not our place to become complacent at the first sign of progress. We must continue to fight to make change truly happen.”
Through his work, he strives to make a difference.
“If I can be a contributor toward that change with music then I have done my job,” said Forbach. “That is basically what ‘Revolutionary’ and being revolutionary is all about. That’s my message now.”
Despite his apparent drive, Forbach divulges that he is a nervous performer due to “residual perfectionist issues” which gives him the jitters. Now, with the ability to sustain focus in the face of “major butterflies,” he imparts to newfangled artists:
“It is equal parts passion, pride, tenacity, hard work and humility. Master that and you are half way there. I can only say follow your dream and you will be truly happy. Everyone’s journey is different.”
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