With his golden vocals, great acting, and mesmerizing stage presence, Max von Essen is a performer to go see. From theatre to film to television, Max has put his stamp in almost every medium. On Broadway, Max has lit up the stage in Les Misérables (revival and closing company of original), Dance of the Vampires, and Jesus Christ Superstar. He has delighted Off-Broadway audiences in Death Takes a Holiday, Hello Again (Drama League Nom), Finian’s Rainbow, and The Jerry Springer Opera (Carnegie Hall), while displaying his talent on tour with Xanadu and Chicago. Max has appeared on screen in such films and television series as Gossip Girl, The Beautiful Life, Sex and the City 2, and numerous commercials. His glorious vocals can be heard on numerous records including Finian’s Rainbow, Death Takes a Holiday, Love Songs of Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Broadway Musicals of 1928.
Max is currently turning heads as "Magaldi" and at select performances, Max steps into the role "Che," usually played by Ricky Martin in the Broadway revival of Evita at The Marriott Marquis Theatre (1535 Broadway, between 45th & 46th Street) in NYC until January 26, when Evita will play its final performance. Click here for tickets to Evita and follow the show on Facebook and Twitter!
1. Evita is closing January 26. What have you enjoyed most about starring in the show and working with this very talented cast? Well, needless to say, it is a gift to actually work in this business, let alone have the honor of being in a new Broadway production. However, the absolute best part is coming to work and being with this cast and crew. Absolutely the coolest group I've ever worked with, and I just love being around them. It's not always the case, trust me. Sometimes you just want to go to work, do your job, and leave. Not the case at Evita!
2. You played "Magaldi" and understudied "Che," played by Ricky Martin. Midway through the run, it was announced you would be playing the role of "Che" on select nights. What did it mean to you to have this opportunity? It's been a thrill and a huge challenge. I haven't understudied in ages and it definitely worked my brain and my energy in a new way. To be ready to go on at a moment's notice has been stressful, but a great experience. Keeping all that material in my head, and keeping my voice and body ready has been difficult, but playing this iconic role is the reward. I knew early on I'd be going on, since Ricky had some vacations planned, but I had no idea I'd perform it as much as I have.
3. What did you like best about playing each role? Well, I love playing "Magaldi" because he's mine, you know? I was cast in the role, I had the luxury of developing the character for six weeks with the actors and creative team before introducing it to an audience, and I feel a sense of ownership in the role. Plus, I adore that he's a singer, and I could not only develop his performance characteristics, but his personal side as well. The role of "Che," I love, because it's just so massive. He nearly never leaves the stage, and the role asks so much of me as an actor and even more as a singer. The range is tremendous and the amount of endurance needed is like nothing I've experienced in a role I've played on Broadway.
4. What projects you are working on that you can tell us about? Haha, nothing. I'm mostly just looking forward to some time off. But don't worry, I'll be around and performing, as I'm already lining up some small projects. You'll hear about them.
5. What has been your biggest onstage mishap? Oh gosh, a few months ago, I was in the middle of the long scene with "Eva" and her family, after I've just sung "On This Night" and I was feeling really great about things. Very into it, and no reason to think I wasn't spot on. Well, 1/2 way through a later verse in the scene, I realized that I was actually on the wrong verse. It felt like some sort of odd dream, because I was singing and emoting and feeling good, and I start to realize that no one else on stage was moving to where they normally move to, and 1/2 way through the verse, I realized I was no longer lined up with the orchestra. It was like an out of body experience. However, I had no idea how to recover. I just continued with conviction and relied on Elena to get me back on track when it was her turn to sing. Then I had to repeat the entire verse again because I was approaching the moment in the scene where it actually belonged, lol. I just sang it again, but this time with more emotion and different inflection, as if it was just so important I had to sing it again. Oh man, it was odd. Took me a few days to shake it off and not second-guess myself every time I arrived at that same verse.
6. What is something most people don't know about you? That I was an Economics major in college and I nearly chickened out of ever giving show business a shot. I'd probably be working on Wall Street and be rich, but I doubt I'd be this happy.
7. What was the first concert you attended? What music are you listening to now? I've actually never been asked that question and I love it because I really had to think. The first concert I ever recall seeing was when I was in 2nd grade or something like that and my parents took me to Radio City Music Hall to see, okay wait for it...LIBERACE!!!! Yes, can you even believe it? First of all, yes, I'm that old. And second, it was like the coolest thing ever. I thought, who is this crazy man wearing fur coats and playing the crap out of the piano? It was amazing, actually. When I got home, my family couldn't tear me away from the piano. I practiced like a crazy person after that. I also started wearing my mom's fur coat more often, but what can you do. Nowadays, I listen to everything, but mostly vintage recordings of great vocalists like Rosemary Clooney, Lena Horne, Edith Piaf, Ella Fitzgerald, etc....
8. What was the one job you took to make ends meet that you wish you didn't take? Oh, I've been lucky, I've never really had to do anything other than perform. Although when I was in high school, I was a busboy. I worked with a few of my best friends, and one night we all had tickets to see Cats. Well, my friends were able to find other guys to take their shifts, but I wasn't able to. So we agreed that I would be the one who called in sick. Well, the restaurant manager found out I wasn't sick, and instead went to see Cats, and fired me. He said he couldn't have liars working for him. Hah. I don't regret my decision.