1. What makes a great song?
I like songs that have a bit of mystery to them, where you have to listen again and again to peel back the layers. You should be able to listen to a great song a hundred times and still discover new things.
2. If you could pick anyone to sing your songs, who would it be?
Jazmine Sullivan or Erykah Badu
3. Did the know the how big an impact “The View UpStairs” would have?
I knew that shedding light on the history of the UpStairs Lounge was important and that the score was badass. But I figured it being this queer rock and roll musical with themes of fashion, time travel, drag, cruising, etc. that it was destined to be a cult show – loved deeply by a small group of fans. I didn’t think we would have twelve new productions all over the world so shortly after our original run! In May-July the show will simultaneously be in Boston, San Francisco, Texas, Ohio, and London. That’s crazy to me.
4. Tell me about your residency at Joe’s Pub. What can people expect?
For the first three months in the fall, it was kind of like the queer downtown version of the Rockettes special – just an insane over the top spectacle. For these next three concerts I still have all the wild costumes and some fabulous guests, but I’m trying to focus more on telling my personal story. I feel that I’ve introduced audiences to my musicals, and now I want to introduce them to me and show some of the grit underneath the glitter.
5. Your other show “KPOP” is set to return to New York next season, what is that about?
“KPOP” is about a Korean pop label trying to cross its internationally successful artists over to America and grappling with what they are being told they must give up in the process. It’s an immigrant story meets “All About Eve” meets “Willy Wonka,” but culminating in a fierce KPOP concert at Madison Square Garden.
6. “The View UpStairs” is making its London debut this summer, are audiences different?
I think they must be! I remember seeing Anne Washburn’s “Mr. Burns” here at Playwrights Horizons and thinking it was the best play I’d ever seen in my entire life. And then it got pretty savaged over in the UK. As far as musicals go though, I have no idea! They have a long cultural tradition of supporting fabulous weirdos like Bowie, Boy George, Siouxsie Sioux, Vivienne Westwood, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
7. Lin-Manuel Miranda called “KPOP” brilliant. What was your reaction?
Meeting Lin was very surreal. I’m not sure if he was emotional because his wife had a new child on the way, but he cried during our show. He told Helen Park (my co-composer) and I that he was inspired by our music. So that was insane and I will definitely hold on to that a long time. But also it was like, oh yeah we’re just people! And ten years ago Lin was in my shoes.
8. You are one of “Out 100” – what did that feel like?
So much of what I do comes from wanting to elevate the queer community, so that felt really incredible to be recognized and honored in that way by Out Magazine. I would like to say however, their management recently changed and they owe a bunch of freelancers money. So Out please pay your people!!!!
9. I’m told you’ve had some special guests joining you at Joe’s Pub – Daphne Rubin-Vega, Ethan Slater, Tonya Pinkins, MJ Rodriguez, Annie Golden. Is this true?
Yes we had all those fierce queens! Not to mention Alice Ripley, Mary Testa, Stephen Trask, George Salazar, Robin de Jesus, Mykal Kilgore, and more! Our lineup for the Feb 26th show is Bonnie Milligan, Kenita Miller, Larry Owens, Brittain Ashford, and Jaime Cepero.
10. Who are you dating?
A journalist who lives in New Haven. He is a wonderful boy, and also somehow taller than me, which seems miraculous.
11. Are you a good boyfriend?
I hope so! We just celebrated our 4 year anniversary so I must be doing something right.
Max Vernon’s residency at Joe’s Pub, Existential Life Crisis Lullaby, returns on Tuesday, February 26 at 7:00 PM.
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