by Chris Peterson, OnStage Editor in Chief
The year is 2001.
A young girl and her family from New Jersey go to see the Broadway musical, Jane Eyre. The young girl is an aspiring actress hoping to make it to Broadway. Her drama teacher knows one of the stars of the show, since he comes from the same town. After the show, the young aspiring actress is invited backstage to meet one of the actors, James Barbour. Barbour is a star on the rise. He had been the Beast in Beauty & The Beast, was also in the revival of Carousel.
At some point during that encounter backstage, James Barbour fondled the young girl and then forced her to fondle him. She was 15 at the time and James Barbour knew she was 15.
They had another sexual encounter, a month later, this time at Barbour's apartment. After promising her that he would introduce her to Broadway producers, he engaged in oral sex with the minor, again knowing full well that she was indeed a minor.
After this, Barbour would go onto to be cast in productions of Assassins and Urinetown.
The year is 2006.
The young girl, now a 20-year-old sex crime victim, presses criminal charges against Barbour as he is about to star on Broadway in A Tale of Two Cities. Initially Barbour and lawyer, Ronald Fischetti, deny the charges and plead not guilty. But they don't stop there. They start a smear campaign against the victim, claiming that she is a gold digger, who is only going after Barbour now because he had just inherited money. They even go as far as trying to reveal the victim's name and set up a hotline number that people can call to see if she has tried to extort money from them through accusations of sex abuse(thankfully the court put a gag order on this).
During this time, a second alleged victim comes forward. She and Barbour met in California and he allegedly groped her as well, she as 13 at the time.
After pleading not guilty, Barbour would go onto to star in A Tale of Two Cities.
The year is 2008.
After battling in courts and in the public, James Barbour confesses to the accusations. Barbour also revealed there was a third sexual encounter. It happened the same night they first met, at a restaurant where Barbour fondled the girl under a table while her family sat nearby.
Barbour plead guilty to two counts of endangering the welfare of a child - a misdemeanor. He is sentenced to 60 days in jail and 3 years probation. As part of the deal with the plea, Barbour would not have to register as a sex offender and only have to notify people of his conviction for the duration of his probation. So for only 3 years, Barbour would have to notify employers, casting agents, etc - that he groped a 15 year old girl.
The year is 2011.
James Barbour leaves the production of The Rocky Horror Show at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego after several new outlets begin reporting stories about his conviction. However, Barbour and the producers stated that he left to be with his wife during her pregnancy.
The year is 2015.
It is announced that James Barbour will replace Norm Lewis in the role of the Phantom in Broadway's The Phantom of the Opera.
I believe that we live in a world of second chances. But we also live in a world with the likes of Earl Bradley, Jerry Sandusky and allegedly, Bill Cosby. For these reasons, it is unconscionable as to why the producers and Tara Rubin Casting would overlook this and cast Barbour in this role. In all likelihood, it was an oversight on their part. While Barbour didn't have to legally disclose his conviction, someone in their offices should have done the due diligence to at least Google James Barbour.
Unfortunately the producers didn't take these steps but the steps they have taken, make them look even worse. After releasing a statement on their Facebook page, which makes little to no sense, they went a step further and started deleted negative reaction comments on the Facebook page.
It's my opinion, that casting and now standing by James Barbour, the producers of Phantom of the Opera and Tara Rubin Casting, demand families with children pay the salary of a convicted child groper. That they require female cast members, some of who were 15 or younger in 2001, to perform alongside a someone who once admitted he fondled a 15 year old girl..
We have come a long way, in a short period of time in properly addressing the reality and brutality that is sex abuse in this country. What the producers and Tara Rubin Casting have done is take a terrible step backward.
I find it an utter shame that Norm Lewis, one of the most distinguished performers on Broadway today and the first African-American to play the role on Broadway, will be followed by the first convicted child groper to play the role.
And while I wish I could say that you should all be there to give Mr. Lewis a standing ovation before he departs on Feb 7th, I cannot in good conscience endorse you to give a single penny to a show that casts and supports James Barbour.
Therefore I urge you, your friends and your families, to boycott Phantom of the Opera. I also urge theatre companies and producers to cease using Tara Rubin Casting for casting services.
For a community that is usually so proactive in taking a stance against crimes and injustice, this is a terrible move.
Now there will be some who will jump to defend Barbour. But what they don't realize is that performing on Broadway is not a right, it's a privilege. If Barbour used his profession to commit a crime, in this case a role in a Broadway musical, why should he ever be allowed in a Broadway show again?
Oh and if you're wondering how Barbour was even considered for this role? Tara Rubin Casting also cast Jane Eyre, the show where James Barbour used his stardom to commit a sex crime.