Max Quinlan is currently starring as Marius in the 25th Anniversary U.S. National Tour of LES MISÉRABLES. Max has been with the show for 16 months. He has been playing Marius for 7 months. Max grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and got started in theatre at a very young age. He made his professional debut at 12 in Ragtime. Max attended the University of Cincinnati-College Conservatory of Music and got his degree in Music Theatre. He moved to New York and was lucky to get the chance to audition for Les Mis and has been on the road ever since.
Max Quinlan, Joel Herbst (Company Manager), and Andrew Michaelson (Associate Company Manager) attended a special brown bag lunch sponsored by the Texas Performing Arts where the community was invited to participate in this special event and ask questions of the panel. After the discussion, I got to sit down one-on-one with Max and chat about his career, his future and the role of Marius.
Tell us how you got started in theatre? What was your first professional role?
I got started when I was a kid. My mom is a singer so I was brought up in a singing household. She did community theatre. I got started really young. My first show was when I was 5 years old. I started from there and Ragtime happened as a coincidence. My mom saw a clipping in a newspaper that they were having auditions for the Wizard of Oz at a professional theatre in Chicago. They were going to have kids be the munchkins possibly. They had a huge open call and it was in the community newspaper. I think someone actually told my mom about it to bring me to the audition. My mom asked me if I wanted to go. I went. There were like 300 kids there. It was ridiculous. There were a ton of us. We all had to sing and dance. Afterwards, they brought us into this huge theatre and they were like, “Thank you all so much for coming in. We really appreciate it. We don’t need to see anybody else at this time. We just need to see Max Quinlan and everyone else is dismissed. I thought I was in trouble. Luckily it was not the case this time.
So I stayed and they asked me if I could sing something else for them. I was doing a production of Secret Garden at the time so I sang Round-Shouldered Man. They were like, “Great. Is your mom here?” My mom came in, they talked to my mom. I left and that was it. They told my mom that they were not going to use kids, that it was a huge mistake. They told her, “We really liked your son. We’d like to keep him on file and bring him if we do any show in the future that has a little boy in it.” We didn’t think anything of it and 2 weeks later, I got a call from Canada from the producers of Ragtime for Broadway and national tour saying that my name was recommended to the team for a new little boy in Ragtime. What had happened was the director of Wizard of Oz was good friends with the director of Ragtime and he called him and told him they were looking for a new little boy, the show was coming to Chicago and they said, “We can’t find anybody. We’ve been having auditions.” And they said, “Well, I just saw this kid.”
My audition process started and had about 5 auditions. I had to eventually work with every director, the choreographers, the musical director, the producers; I had to work with the lady who was playing the mother. She did the scene with the last 3 final boys that were there. I got a call 2 days later saying that it was down to me and one other kid which they should never do. Then I found out that I got the part. That started when I was 12 and ended when I was 13. From there, I decided to go back to normal high school because I didn’t want to do performing arts always. I went back to regular school and did high school and then when it came to college time, I decided that I did want to pursue a life of theatre so I luckily got into Cincinnati and went there. During Cincinnati, I was still auditioning for some stuff. If anyone is aware of Spring Awakening, I got 8 callbacks for that show. It was during college so I was travelling from Cincinnati to New York. It was the first time that I was ever in that type of a process as an adult, going in for something and seeing what that’s all about. Auditioning is hard. It’s difficult and when you’re a professional actor, your real job is to be a professional auditioner.