Interview: JASMINE FORSBERG (currently performing in Broadway’s HERE LIES LOVE)

Post image for Interview: JASMINE FORSBERG (currently performing in Broadway’s HERE LIES LOVE)

by Gregory Fletcher on August 11, 2023

in Interviews,Theater-New York


Making her Broadway debut in Here Lies Love, triple-threat Jasmine Forsberg plays Maria Luisa and “Imelda’s Inner Voice.” Prior to this run, she played Jane Seymour in the first national tour of Six. Other credits include Off-Broadway’s Greenwich House Theater where she performed in Broadway Bounty Hunter, and regionally in the world premiere of Love in Hate Nation at Two River Theater, A Grand Night for Singing at Goodspeed, and Wild Fire at Denver Center. On TV, she can be seen in One December Night, produced by Hallmark. She earned a BFA in Musical Theatre from Penn State and graduated Summa Cum Laude.

The transformed Broadway Theatre for HERE LIES LOVE.
(Billy Bustamante, Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman, 2023)

Stage and Cinema’s Gregory Fletcher recently spoke to Jasmine Forsberg after seeing a performance of Here Lies Love at the Broadway Theater. Unlike anything ever seen on Broadway, the orchestra level has been emptied and flattened, allowing the stage and performers full access to the space, reaching all the way to the back and up to the mezzanine and balcony. Two elevated rows of seats run along the orchestra sides, facing center. The audience on the orchestra level stands and surrounds the action for the 90-minute performance, resembling a dance floor of a glitzy, extravagant disco. 

Conrad Ricamora, Arielle Jacobs, and the cast of HERE LIES LOVE.
(Billy Bustamante, Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman, 2023)

GREGORY FLETCHER: What a thrilling Broadway debut with two powerful characters, one (Maria Luisa) who upstages the protagonist Imelda Marcos and gets her man, and the other (Imelda’s Inner Voice) who enters through a wall of haze like a rock star—how cool is that! 

JASMINE FORSBERG: A Washington Post article compared the entrance to the Acid Queen in The Who’s Tommy, which I think is as good as it gets. There are similarities in the grunge and the Angel of Vengeance energy that [director Alex] Timbers has encouraged me to seek out in that particular number. It is so much fun. But just to clarify: Maria Luisa is a figment of Imelda’s imagination and appears as an extension of Imelda’s inner self. Though they are billed separately, I don’t see them as two separate characters but rather one entity that represents all of Imelda’s inner thoughts. The way I think of Maria Luisa is that she’s voicing the internal monologue that Imelda is experiencing but unwilling or unable to voice herself, especially as a very public facing political figure.

Arielle Jacobs and the cast of HERE LIES LOVE.
(Billy Bustamante, Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman, 2023)

GREGORY: How did this debut come about? You’re too young to have been in the previous 2017 production at Seattle Rep or the earlier productions at Off-Broadway’s Public Theater. 

JASMINE: Exactly, I was still a young student at the time of those earlier productions. I graduated from Penn State University fairly recently, back in 2021. When it was announced that Here Lies Love was moving to Broadway, my mom sent me the article and said, “Oh my gosh, Jasmine, it’s the first all-Filipino cast ever to perform on Broadway.” I reached out to my agent and said, “I want to get in this room; how can we make it happen?” Lucky for me, I’m here, and it is a dream come true to be telling this story alongside my community, night after night. 

GREGORY: Do you think it changed very much from the former productions till now? 

JASMINE: From what I’ve been told, the energy and foundation is very much the same as the original production at the Public. I believe in past productions, it was mostly standing room, and now we have room for many seated areas. Here at the Broadway Theater, it’s much more epic in scope, a grander scale of a production. 

GREGORY: The show is so spread out—performed from the stage all the way up to the balcony and everywhere in between. Were you able to rehearse this in a studio or did the staging have to wait until you moved into the theater? 

JASMINE: We were so lucky to get the set from Seattle Rep moved here to fit in our rehearsal hall. I think the show would have been impossible to rehearse and visualize had we not had the set, so thank goodness we did. And it made tech a lot easier because we were already used to climbing up and down staircases and platforms, and pretending we were ducking through mud flaps to get on and off stage. 

Jasmine Forsberg & Annie Golden in BROADWAY BOUNTY HUNTER (Matthew Murphy)

GREGORY: There were stages on either side of the mezzanine, and actors up and down the aisles of the balcony. It looked like a lot of climbing and long treks of distance from one entrance to the next. What a work-out!

JASMINE: I like to think of our set as a playground. David Korins designed this stunningly beautiful playground that we get to climb and run on, and there are telescoping and rotating platforms that are maneuvered by automation or our crew, respectively. Yes, we’re trekking from the balcony to the mezzanine to the video stage—There isn’t just one stage, so it’s not just stage right or stage left. We have to be very aware of surroundings at every entrance and exit because there are real safety concerns with the moving platforms. We have a crew of set wranglers to help keep us safe. 

Jesse Nager and Jasmine Forsberg in A GRAND NIGHT FOR SINGING
at the Goodspeed Opera House. (Diane Sobolewski)

GREGORY: I loved watching them, like the marshallers signaling to the pilot of an aircraft, using specific gestures with flashlights to move, stop, and step away. If you’re standing in the orchestra, you’re watching from several different angles, and separated from the party you arrived with. 

JASMINE: Exactly, because if not, someone may get a stubbed toe or bumped by a moving platform. The wranglers are imperative to a smooth run of our show. 

GREGORY: What’s the farthest you have to travel from one scene to the next?

JASMINE: There’s one moment where I play a riot police officer in the number “Riots and Bombs,” and I have to run around to the other side, rip off my tactical vest, helmet, and jumpsuit, and then start singing the somber number, “Order 1081.” With all the chaos that’s going onstage and around, leading into a particularly grounded number, I definitely feel out of breath a bit. Gotta keep conditioning!

GREGORY: Have you ever clocked how many steps you do in one performance? 

JASMINE: That’s funny because I just came off from doing the national tour of Six, and some of my fellow Queens had tracked how many steps it took and how many calories burned. I think it may be better if I don’t know. The hard work is being done either way.

Jasmine Forsberg in SIX (Joan Marcus)

GREGORY: True that. Did you leave the tour of Six to do this production? 

JASMINE: I had just reached my one-year mark at Six, completing my contract, and so it was almost a seamless transition from the tour to this production. I was so deeply in love with my company on the tour, it’s always a risk when you join a new company. You never know what the energy and creative dynamic will be like, and I thank my lucky stars that I was able to join a company that—in the true Filipino fashion—on day one, it felt like an extended family. It was so warm, so special, and a personification of a hug. Truly, it was wonderful, and I felt at home right away. 

Jasmine Forsberg performs "Sing Happy" from FLORA THE RED MENACE
in IF IT ONLY EVEN RUNS A MINUTE at 54 Below (Stephen Mosher)

FLETCHER: If someday, you go back into Six, is there another queen you’d like to play? Or would you want to repeat Jane Seymour again? 

JASMINE: Well, it’s quite funny you asked that because when I first auditioned for the show, I tend to carry my “Maria Luisa” energy into the audition room: sassy, pointed, with an attitude, and maybe even Acid Queen-esque in that I like to be a rock star. Jane Seymour is definitely not rock star energy. So, when I got the offer to play Jane Seymour, there was a moment of confusion. But it wasn’t until I got to live in the role for a few months that I realized there is not a single other queen that makes more sense to me. I loved playing Jane. I would play her again and again.

Magic Curtain Productions’ NIGHT ON BROADWAY (2009)

FLETCHER: I read that you were born in Chicago. At what age did you know you had such a powerful singing voice? 

JASMINE: Chicago is where my love for the arts started. I took piano lessons when I was three, and dance lessons when I was the age of two. But my love for singing and storytelling actually developed when I moved to Orlando, Florida. I started voice lessons when I was six, and there was a local community theater down the street, Magic Curtain Productions. My mom asked if I wanted to try out. Or actually, sign up. No one had to try out. The show was 101 Dalmatians

Eight-year-old Jasmine Forsberg with her mom (2009)

It was only a matter of time before musical theater became a part of my life. I was already singing, dancing, and playing music. My dad likes to tell me that at this local community theater, they used to do a “Night On Broadway” as a fundraiser for the theater. They had me sing “Hopelessly Devoted to You” when I was eight years old. Everyone in the room, my parents included, was like—”wait a second, what?” I think you can tell that my speaking voice is different from my singing voice—with a different tone, timbre, and whatnot. Even as a little eight year old, I had a tiny, chipmunk voice. But when I sang, it sounded more mature. And my parents said, “We’re going to keep exploring this.” I’m very grateful I had my parents’ support to continue exploring—not just as a hobby, but as a true passion that has led to a career.

Magic Curtain Productions' SHREK THE MUSICAL at Orlando Rep

FLETCHER: Did you do any amusement park entertainment at Disney or Universal? 

JASMINE: I wasn’t old enough by the time I moved away for college.

Penn State Homecoming Pep Rally

FLETCHER: Was college at Penn State what brought you up north? 

JASMINE: It might not be the norm for someone to want to leave sunny Florida to go to school in the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania, where I wasn’t accustomed to cold winters whatsoever. But it was the best decision I could have made for myself. Penn State had everything I wanted in a theater program. Individualized training while still at a very big university where I had the opportunity to explore other parts of myself, including my Filipino background. I was an active part of the Filipino Association at Penn State. I graduated during the pandemic. It was definitely complex to find your footing in a career of musical theater when you were taking ballet classes in your kitchen or dining room. But we made it work. And I look back at my time at Penn State so fondly. 

Jasmine Forsberg as "Rat" in the premiere production of

FLETCHER: How long have you been contracted to be in Here Lies Love?

JASMINE: Right now, for six months, but I’m so deeply fulfilled by this work that I could see myself, if they’ll have me, continuing on and on. 

FLETCHER: The show feels very fresh, original, surprising, dazzling and with a very relevant ending—I’m sure it’s here for a long run. I hope so.

JASMINE: I’m going to keep manifesting that with you, Gregory!

Jasmine Forsberg in Hallmark's ONE DECEMBER NIGHT

FLETCHER: Your bio mentions that you’re a songwriter. How would you describe your music? 

JASMINE: I love thinking of songwriting as a personal journal of mine. It’s an exploration of my thoughts, and I love telling stories with my music. I think a great pop song is one that is catchy but also still says something meaningful. One of my biggest influences is Billy Joel—one of the best songwriters of our time, in my opinion. I admire his ability to craft a story within a song, as do modern writers like Taylor Swift and Lizzie McApline. I don’t usually write musical theater songs, but I love how catchy they can be in shows like Six. Lucy Moss and Toby Marlow know how to write a hit contemporary musical theater/pop song. Same with Joe Iconis, who can write the catchiest songs that are quirky and full of storytelling. I have so much respect for writers who can infuse depth and heart in the catchiest of earworms.

Penn State Filipino Association's 25th-annual Barrio,
"Crazy Rich Filipinos" (2019) 

FLETCHER: Are your songs for you to sing?

JASMINE: Yes, I enjoy writing music for myself to sing, and to explore the idea of what it’s like to tell a story. 

FLETCHER: A story for musical theater perhaps?

JASMINE: Not just yet. But…that would be exciting. Some day. Actually, today, my solo concert debut was announced at 54 Below, [November 19th at 9:30 pm] and I’m going to perform a lot of my original music. I’m really looking forward to that. 

Ninoy Aquino, Jr. in HERE LIES LOVE.
(Billy Bustamante, Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman, 2023)

FLETCHER: Break a leg, how wonderful. Thinking back on Here Lies Love, I can’t help but think that when a young Imelda couples with the young politician [Ninoy Aquino, Jr.] she hopes to marry, only to be dumped because “she’s too tall,” if only he wasn’t hung up about his own height and the height of a woman on his arm, history may have gone in a different direction. 

JASMINE: Oh, 1000%, perhaps none of the power-hungry violence would have ever happened. But also, the world wouldn’t have seen the power of peacefully standing up against your oppressors. Change does not always require violence as a prerequisite.

FLETCHER: And now, 38 years later, when history looks to be repeating itself, I hope we can learn from that movement and use it as a role model. And in the final moments of the show, I groaned when I heard that Imelda and Ferdinand escaped the People Power Revolution via helicopter because Ronald Reagan granted them exile in the U.S. After a 20-year dictatorship—really? Another reason to think less of Reagan. The beautiful ending to the musical is even more relevant today than when it first premiered. May we all please take note. 

JASMINE: One of the final moments in Here Lies Love ends with a direct address from the DJ. He says, “Democracies are only as strong as the people.” I hope that we can all feel empowered to stand up against oppressors as the Philippine people so beautifully demonstrated in this peaceful revolution.

Find Here Lies Love at the Broadway Theater
Follow Jasmine Forsberg, Instagram
Find Gregory Fletcher at Gregory Fletcher, Facebook, and Instagram

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