I first interviewed Max Von Essen back in 2010 when he was skating around the world as "Sonny Malone" in the national tour "Xanadu." Since that time, Max has come home to New York where he has starred in Roundabout Theater Company's production of Maury Yeaston's "Death Takes a Holiday," "Only A Kingdom" at the York Theater, "The History of War" at the New York Musical Theater Festival (NYMF), and the Transport Group's acclaimed revival of Michael John LaChiusa's "Hello Again."
Currently, Max is starring in the Broadway revival of "Evita" as "Magaldi" alongside Grammy Award winner Ricky Martin as "Che," Tony Award winner Michael Cerveris as "Peron," and Olivier Award winner Elena Roger as "Eva Peron." This time Max and I sat down for an in-depth discussion about "Evita" and other details of his life and career! "Evita" plays at the Marquis Theatre in NYC (1535 Broadway, between 45th & 46th Street). Click here for tickets to "Evita" and follow the show on Facebook and Twitter!
1. What attracted you to "Evita"? The fact that it was a job and it was going to be on Broadway. LOL. Truthfully, I wasn't familiar with this particular Andrew Lloyd Weber work, but my agents got me the audition and I knew the reputation of the show and the excitement for this revival. That was enough for me to feel motivated and try to kick ass throughout the audition process.
2. What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing "Evita"? Well, I always hope that people are entertained and are able to escape for a few hours, but I also hope people learn a bit about a fascinating woman. Eva Peron contributed so much to Argentina in her very short 33 years on earth, yet remains a very controversial figure. Was she in it all for herself and for the power? Was she 100% committed to improve the lives of those less fortunate in her country? Opinions in Argentina and in the world continue to be mixed. I've had a lot of people tell me that they loved seeing the show and couldn't wait to get home to research Evita further. I love that!
3. What do you identify most with about your character "Magaldi"? Magaldi was a professional singer, and that for me, is an instant connection. Everything grows from there. A lot of people don't know that Agustin Magaldi enjoyed a very successful career and left many many recordings for future generations to hear. I purchased a few records of his which I found on eBay and downloaded dozens of songs off of iTunes. I continue to listen to him before performances to help prepare.
4. How will you make the role of "Magaldi" your own? As I mentioned before, I really wasn't familiar with this musical, so I prepared for my auditions and my characterization of Magaldi from a clean slate. Over time I've discovered that he's often been played as a bit of a joke, slightly over the top, sleazy and flamboyant. However, I started my work from a very real place, nothing too silly or characterized. I wanted him to sing well and take his performance very seriously, as the real Magaldi would have. I wanted him to be someone Eva could have truly fallen for and been lured by the glamour of what he represented to her at that time. Someone who was on his way up, who represented the opportunity in Buenos Aires, where she felt destined to be. So for me, most important was to start from a very real and genuine place. Don't get me wrong, I do not shy away from adding a bit of flamboyance into his performance, but when he is Magaldi, the performer. When he is simply Magaldi, the man, I want him to be real.
5. What is your favorite part of the rehearsal/preview period in a show? I love the beginning stages of rehearsal when we focus on scene work. Digging into the role and getting to know the other actors as people and as their characters. It's truly a playground for adults where you have the luxury to make choices, large, small, wrong or right. It's the most thrilling time.
6. Where is your favorite place to rehearse on your own? I do my best work in my living room. Haha. Truly, there is nothing more enjoyable than sitting down at my piano and delving into a new score and role. Sometimes if I need to be extremely focused without distraction, I'll rent a studio, but generally I can get a tremendous amount done right at home.
7. What have you learned about yourself from being a performer? I've learned that I must always perform. I cannot separate myself as a person from myself as a performer and it's very difficult to imagine the day when I will no longer perform.
8. If you weren't doing what you were doing now, what career would you have chosen? NOTHING. But seriously, it's very hard to answer that question, because when you choose the arts as your career, it's generally because in your heart you know you couldn't choose anything else. My artistic brain has always been good with math and numbers, which led to a degree in Economics, so I guess if I chose a different path, I'd be working at a large investment bank or down on Wall Street.
9. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose? The power to heal.
10. Favorite way to spend your day off? Meeting my best friends, grabbing a big coffee, and going on a city adventure. Shopping in Brooklyn, hitting the High Line, checking out a museum, you name it. You can live in New York City for 100 years and never discover all that it has to offer, so anytime I can venture out with great friends is awesome.