"Les Mis?ables" opens this week at Santa Rosa Junior College with new student Christopher Hohmann, a young man with a fairly miserable past, playing the lead as Jean Valjean.
You truly could say it's the role of his life. Hohmann's mother may or may not make one of the 13 performances, but he said she appeared at a rehearsal the other day to let him know she had spent the night at a city park and she needed to turn herself in at the county jail.
"She's really the nicest lady you'll ever meet," Hohmann (HOE-man) pleads, his large, brown eyes emitting care and disappointment from beneath his hefty brows and backwards ballcap.
"But when she gets some alcohol in her she really changes. It brings out the sadness in her."
Over coffee, Hohmann tells of his Puerto Rican-American father dying when he was 17. "He really tried to be such a good dad," he says, but drink was a problem for him, too.
Hohmann talks of his childhood as a patchwork of crises, frequent hops among cheap rentals and homeless shelters, camping near the Russian River, foster parents, couch surfing, police encounters and failed starts.
"I had a lot of crazy stuff happen to me when I was little," he says. "My mom was always moving around."
He tells of being 2 or 3 when he found his mother passed out, so he walked outside in the dark and made it several blocks, across streets, before he was helped "by some really benevolent people."
In fact, he credits a good many such people — certainly Analy High choral director Andy DelMonte and other teachers, counselors, people who serve struggling teens — with support and kindnesses that he too often squandered.
As with both of his parents, Hohmann drank. But his bigger problem, he says, was daily use of marijuana and deep immersion into the stoned culture.