(The "Introducing ... " series features an interview
Scott Cain: Les Miserables is such a sweeping story full of emotional characters. What is the most challenging aspect of playing the role of Fantine?
Jayne Paterson: It is a challenge to portray a character from an epic novel within the constraints of a three-hour show. In the musical, you lose a lot of Fantine's layered subtext and history that is provided in the book. It's my responsibility to show the full arc of the character and fill in the blanks. I try to do that by exploring what Fantine has lost ... the joy and freedom of her youth.
SC: Les Miserables has sometimes been described as a story of Christian morality, focusing on themes of forgiveness, mercy, and sacrifice. How have your own values and beliefs shaped your performance within the show?
JP: I know this might sound funny, since it is the name of the song I sang in Jane Eyre, but if I had to choose one word to describe the theme of the show, it would be "forgiveness." It is the forgiveness of self, especially, that I find most profound. These characters are able to forgive themselves while struggling within the burdens of society and their own surrounding circumstances. It is in this self-forgiveness that they are able to show forgiveness and mercy to others. In Fantine's case, it is her devotion to the welfare of her child.
SC: You have a loyal Internet following, thanks mostly to your involvement in the musical Jane Eyre. How would you summarize your experiences with that show?
JP: Just the thought of Jane Eyre brings tears to my eyes. I was fortunate to be involved with the show from the beginning. Actually, about 85% of the cast was with the show from Toronto to La Jolla and finally on Broadway. The company was an amazing family. We sacrificed a lot for the benefit of the show because we loved it. It mattered so much to us. We looked forward to going to work everyday, because the piece mattered. It was amazing to work with Director John Caird. He is one of the most confident human beings I have ever come in contact with, and he makes his actors confident in return. He encouraged the performers to provide input in the work. A freedom existed to explore and suggest ideas, with no boundaries, and as a result, we could see our work and ideas in the final product. When the two-week notice went up, it hurt because we had invested so much into the piece.
SC: Your roles of Helen in Jane Eyre and Fantine in Les Miserables have a lot in common: a character concerned with the wellbeing of a child, a character that dies early on and then comes back as a ghost. What are the other similarities and differences between the roles?
JP: Yes, there are many similarities. In my death scene, for instance, I revolve in on another John Napier revolve, in a similar little bed, in a similar lighting plot, and in a similar nightgown, while singing a song before dying. Overall, it isn't that much of a coincidence. I like playing characters that have serious questions to ask of themselves and of the other characters within the show. I would say that the main difference is that, when introduced, Helen is already steadfast with her philosophy in life. When we meet Fantine, she is going through such change, while moving towards that self-awareness. However, both characters end up preaching the same message in the end.
SC: You were the understudy for the title character in Jane Eyre and went on several times on Broadway. Would you have any desire to play that role full time in a future regional production of the show?
JP: Yes, absolutely. I would love to do it with the right director and at the right time. It is a gift, a wonderful role for women. The role is so epic, and it would be an extraordinary experience to play the role every night. It was somewhat torturous to play it one night and then not get to do so for a long stretch of time.
SC: Yesterday (10/2/02), the announcement that Les Miserables would be closing on Broadway was made. What are your thoughts on this long running musical no longer playing in New York?
JP: It's sad. It is terrible for anything to have to end. Les Miserables has carried the torch of possibilities and hope for all new shows. It is so hard to get a show up and running, and to see that one has been going for so long is amazing. I can see the positive side that it gives another show an opportunity to take its place, but Les Miserables is special. It has so many fleshed out characters going through various journeys in their lives. I think that one of the wonderful things about the show is that just about everyone can see themselves in one of those characters.
SC: What does the future hold for Jayne Paterson?
JP: When I finish my run in Les Miserables on tour, I plan on going back to New York City and getting settled. I didn't have that opportunity when I was with Jane Eyre. I am working on a new piece with Paul Gordon and John Caird and I look forward to its further development.