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Max Chernin on His Solo Debut at Feinstein’s/54 Below and the Impact of “Bright Star”

Redheaded singer goes from Broadway’s “Bright Star” to New York cabaret debut in “The Color Ginger.”

Max Chernin

Max Chernin

Courtney Marie

Courtney Marie, Critic

After making his Broadway debut in the Steve Martin and Edie Brickell musical, Bright Star, this spring, Ohio native, Max Chernin, will be showcasing his talent at Broadway’s supper club Feinstein’s/54 Below on August 8.

Titled “The Color Ginger,” Chernin’s solo show will pay tribute to some of the most iconic redheads in musical theatre history, as well as dive into some of the social aspects pertaining to those donning fiery locks. His wit, charm, and incredible voice will be on full display as New Yorkers spend an evening getting to know one of theater’s most vibrant up-and-coming performers.

TheaterScene.net had the exciting opportunity to speak with Chernin about the themes and sounds of his solo debut, his experience with Bright Star, and why gingers rule! Check out the interview below: 

TheaterScene.net: Solo shows are an excellent way for fans to get to know their favorite performers on a more personal level and ”The Color Ginger” sounds like such a hoot! As we get ready to ‘Meet Max’ can you describe your personality in three words?

Hmm, this is kind of like filling out an online dating profile. I’d like to think I’m kind, weird, and have a dry sense of humor. I’m also calm and like to stay in tune with a more tranquil kind of energy.

TS: Take me through the process of selecting song material for your solo debut. 

In college, during my senior year, I had an assignment to put together a half hour cabaret. I did that also about being a redhead, so I started there and dug up that old sheet music and changed/added to some of that. I’m covering some iconic gingers in musical theatre as well as some of the social aspects of being a ginger — some of the things that South Park brought up. There’s this episode where they claim that gingers have no souls and make fun of them, so will be referencing and challenging those views. It’ll also be some stories and some of my favorite songs.

TS: If I were to go into your music collection, what would I find? 

A kind of crazy hodge podge of stuff. When you go to school for theatre, you kind of stop listening to show tunes for pleasure because it was always part of an assignment. I wish I could say it’s chock full of show tunes, but it’s not. Currently, I’m listening to the music of Waitress – so good! I like a lot of indie, blue grass, Punch Brothers. I also really trust Spotify, they know what I like and have great recommendations! Some of my favorite male singers are Marc Broussard, Jamie Cullum, and John Mayer.TS: What did you listen to as a teenager? 

Growing up, I listened to Boyz II Men, Kiss, and Fleetwood Mac – those are the first things I remember having CDs and tapes of.

TS: Was there a cast recording that you were obsessed with?

A New Brain – my camp counselors sang “I Feel So Much Spring” as our send-off and I needed to know what it was and where it came from. I bought the CD and the vocal selections and was obsessed! I sang that song for all of my auditions! Also, Rent has probably been my life the last five years. Also, if you don’t have Katie Boeck’s EP, Speaking of You (from Spring Awakening) – you need to get that – she’s so great!

Max Chernin in performance at Feinstein’s/54 Below 

Max Chernin in performance at Feinstein’s/54 Below

TS: Before you began the journey with Bright Star were you a fan of bluegrass? How did that type of music impact you? 

The music of the show definitely hooked me! I had been introduced to it, but wasn’t something that I necessarily sought out. When I got to Bright Star, I started listening to the first album, that Steve [Martin] & Edie [Brickell] did together called Love Has Come for You, to get some background. It’s not the type of music you can teach to someone – you would have to hear someone sing it to understand and our music director would often turn to Edie and ask if she could sing a line. It’s a style that you just don’t get from looking at the page. Hanging out with the band all the time was also a highlight.

There’s something so honest about this type of music and especially in the way that Carmen [Cusack] delivered it.

TS: What was it like recording the cast album and being in the studio with Steve Martin?

It was so amazing! Our producer for the album is Peter Asher and he’s this epic figure in the recording industry – he discovered Linda Ronstadt and James Taylor and he had a band called Peter and Gordon, so for him to be working on this album is a big deal. The way that we recorded the group vocals was so perfect – it was this giant room and we all crowded around a couple of mics and we got to experience it all together! Steve was just grinning – he was so thrilled!

I think the most fun was doing the hamboning in “Whoa, Mama!” – everyone left the room and three of us sat on chairs and they brought the mic down to our laps to record the stomps.

TS: Being part of Bright Star from the beginning, you literally got to see its birth—can you put that experience into words?

It was once-in-a-lifetime! Being at the Cort Theatre felt way more intimate – I really loved that experience. I’m so glad we did it in DC and in San Diego because I got to know the show really well. It will always stand out to me.

TS: Solo shows allow you to have a more intimate experience with your audience. What are your hopes for the evening in terms of connecting on a more personal level?

I want people to just have fun and come and have a good time! One thing is for sure – they will leave with a better understanding of being a redhead and will really get to know me!! You will also know all the nicknames for redheads by the end of the evening.

TS: What famous red heads will you be paying tribute to?

Of course, we’ll be covering Annie, and Ariel from The Little Mermaid – those are the characters. In terms of icons – it will be Carol Burnett, Lucille Ball, Bernadette Peters, Gwen Verdon, Faith Prince, and then my favorite Kate Baldwin. There weren’t that many ginger men that I could pay tribute to – yet!!!

TS: Name you favorite thing about being a redhead.

Personally, it’s fun – I don’t need to pick out a t-shirt to stand out. Professionally, it’s sort of a double-edged sword. I think it’s helped me be part of original work but has hurt me in roles that are sort of set in mind, like a Fiddler on the Roof.

TS: If audience members can leave with one new thought about redheads, what would you want that to be?

Just choose their words wisely if they are going to pick on us. Or watch their back, because we might be vampires (laughs)! I guess I sort of fought the stereotype from South Park about redheads being soulless – I’m very outgoing!! If I could tell my younger self one thing it would to be proud of being unabashedly myself!

TS: What type of work would you love to be involved with in the future?

I would love to go do a six-week regional gig somewhere. I think it would be a nice way to decompress and I’d love to do more new work. I would also love to go on tour and see the country.

TS: Fill in the blank – Blondes have more fun, but gingers….

Light a fire!!!!

Max Chernin will make his solo debut at Feinstein’s/54 Below on Monday, August 8, 2016 at 9:30 p.m. For more, visit: https://54below.com/ and to keep up with Max, check out his website: http://www.maxchernin.com/

Courtney Marie
About Courtney Marie (44 Articles)
Courtney Marie is a New Jersey native with a tremendous love for the Big Apple. She has a degree in journalism and currently works in media. In addition to devouring all the theater that New York City has to offer, she also takes to the stage with AfterWork Theater Project and is grateful for the chance to perform with friends.

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