Call Redialed: NEW Max von Essen Interview: "Falsettos" Tour + debut CD "Call Me Old Fashioned: The Broadway Standard"
I am beyond thrilled that Tony Nominee Max von Essen answered my call again! It’s been seven years since our last interview, so with the upcoming release of Max’s debut CD, Call Me Old Fashioned: The Broadway Standard and his starring turn in the National Tour of Falsettos, now seemed like the perfect time to catch up!
Call Me Old Fashioned: The Broadway Standard will be released on Friday, April 5. Click here to order!
Update: Max will be celebrating the release of Call Me Old Fashioned with a release concert at Birdland (315 West 44th Street, between 8th & 9th Ave) on Monday, 8/19 at 7pm. Click here for tickets!
1. On April 5, you are releasing your debut solo recording Call Me Old Fashioned: The Broadway Standard. What made now the right time to release your debut recording? All I can say is...FINALLY!! I've been dreaming of doing this for years, and although I wasn't nervous to put the work in, I just didn't know where to start. I wasn't sure what I wanted to say or what music fit best in my voice. MY voice, not the voice of a role I'm playing, but my own, you know?
I knew the best thing for me would be to start performing live, so I agreed to a few solo concerts out of town, knowing that the pressure of having that on my schedule would force me to sit down and really look at material I loved and find a music director I clicked with.
I knew I wanted An American in Paris to play a role in the concert, because that show meant so much to me and the Gershwin brothers were the first songwriters I fell in love with as a kid. Then I got Billy Stritch to agree to be my music director. From there, it just started clicking. I kept connecting to my true loves. The Golden Age of Broadway, classic movie musicals and the American songbook. Everything just kept falling into place. Then after a few concerts, a few songs in and out, and some fine tuning, I said "Billy, I think we got an album...how quickly do you think we could record this?" We had to put everything into high gear since I was leaving town for Falsettos, so we just went for it. Thank god for Billy!
2. What was your favorite part about the recording process? Oh gosh, well the actual recording days. Those are just the best. And there were some evening sessions where my voice just felt great and I didn't want it to end. Plus, several of the songs are real guilty pleasures, like "The Trolley Song." Just so much fun to record.
It's the listening back that I don't like and the hours of mixing. After a while, I just can't judge myself anymore. I enjoy listening to a few of the songs now that they're finished, but other than that, listening to myself is hard.
3. One song you perform on the album is "On This Night of A Thousand Stars." What event in your life would symbolize "On this night of a thousand stars, Let me take you to heaven's door, Where the music of love's guitars, Plays for evermore"? Wow, incredible question and regarding a song that is the most meaningful to me now. Years ago, when I was doing Evita, one of my best friends, Carole Haber, who also came on board as one of the producers of that revival, told me that she thought there was a really surprisingly beautiful song within that song. A slower, more romantic version. I kind of brushed it off and didn't give it much thought, but years later, I was sitting at my piano, the sheet music was out, and I just started playing through it slowly and singing it lightly. The lyrics finally became the focus. I could hear a cello or viola in my head and I knew one day I'd record the song. I actually went into a studio and recorded it for Carole as a gift and then recorded it again for this album. Carole passed away not long after I gave her that recording as a gift, so you can imagine how much these lyrics mean to me now.
4. You are also playing "Marvin" on the National Tour of Falsettos. What do you relate to most about "Marvin" & what is one characteristic of his you are glad you yourself don't possess? Oh god, questions like this kill me, because as an outsider I don't like “Marvin,” especially early on in the show. He's simply not likable. He wasn't a great husband, he's a crappy dad and certainly not a great partner to “Whizzer.”
What's wonderful is his growth, he matures, he finds true love, he reconnects with his son and he reaches a healthy place with his ex-wife. He becomes a man. But he's complicated. He's charming and cruel, he's sweet and violent and he's stable in some ways yet a mess in others. It's been an interesting experience to actually feel the energy from the audience and know that they dislike you. I don't know that I change all of their minds, but that's okay. That's what this show is. Crazy, quirky, beautiful, but real. These people are flawed and just like all of us in life, they are works in progress. Therefore, even though it isn't always fun, it's easy to connect.
Sure, I like to think of myself as a kind, mature, fairly together person, but lord knows I've had my moments. I've been awful, I've been unstable, I've been unkind to partners and family members, all those things. It might not be fun, but I have to revisit those moments and those feelings so I can access “Marvin.”
One characteristic I'm happy I don't possess, though, is his tendency to become violent. It's very hard to go there in the show. I really have to lose myself at that point because it's just too difficult to think of.
5. Rapid Fire Questions:
Coke or Pepsi? Coke. Diet Coke actually.
Twizzlers or Red Vines? Neither are gluten free and I'm allergic, so that's a hard pass on both! LOL.
Peanut Butter: Crunchy or Smooth? Smooth!!
Favorite go to Emoji when texting? 😘😘😘
More on Max:
Max recently starred on Broadway as “Gleb Vaganov” in Anastasia and is currently touring the country as “Marvin” in the Lincoln Center production of Falsettos.
In 2016, Max completed his run in An American in Paris at The Palace Theater as “Henri Baurel,” a performance which earned him a nomination for the 2015 Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Award. He also performed in the revival of Evita, playing the role of “Agustin Magaldi” and frequently stepping in for Ricky Martin in the role of “Che.” Other Broadway appearances include “Enjolras” in the first revival of Les Miserable, “Alfred” in the ill-fated Dance of the Vampires, starring alongside Michael Crawford, “Jean Prouvaire” in the closing company of the original Les Miserables, and as a disciple in the 2000 revival of Jesus Christ Superstar. In that production, Max understudied the role of “Jesus” and performed it many times.
Among his numerous New York appearances are Yours Unfaithfully at The Mint Theater, “Alfred Dreyfus” in The Dreyfus Affair at BAM, Maury Yeston’s Death Takes a Holiday at the Roundabout Theatre Company, The Transport Group’s revival of Michael John LaChiusa’s Hello Again (Drama League nomination), Jerry Springer: The Opera at Carnegie Hall, Finian’s Rainbow at the Irish Repertory Theatre, and The Fantasticks at the Sullivan Street Playhouse.
Max has also found himself roller skating across the country in the first national tour of Xanadu as “Sonny Malone,” as “Mary Sunshine” in the national tour of Chicago, as “Tony” in West Side Story throughout Europe and as a back up singer for the legendary Liza Minnelli.
Max's regional credits are too numerous to list, but some personal favorites include “Colonel Arbuthnot” and “Samuel Ratchett” in the world premier adaptation of Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express at The McCarter Theatre, “Dominique” in The Baker's Wife at the Paper Mill Playhouse, older “Patrick” in Mame at The Kennedy Center, “Tony” in West Side Story at the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera and Houston Theater Under the Stars, “Dorian Gray” in Dorian at the NOHO Arts Center, the “Emcee” in Cabaret at The Sacramento Music Circus, “Frederic” in Pirates of Penzance at the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera, “Claude” in Hair at the Bay Street Theater and “Joseph” in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, also at the Sacramento Music Circus.
Max has appeared on television in Law & Order: SVU, Elementary, Boardwalk Empire, The Good Wife, Royal Pains, Gossip Girl, The Beautiful Life, Good Morning America, The Rosie O'Donnell Show, The Tony Awards and in the films, The Intern, Sex and the City 2, Seven Lovers, and Blonde. He was also a regular on the hit web series, Submissions Only. His recordings include An American In Paris, earning him a Grammy Nomination, Evita, Death Takes a Holiday, Love Songs of Andrew Lloyd Weber, Broadway by the Year: 1928, and Finian’s Rainbow.