After writing two successful off-Broadway musicals, Max Vernon is bringing things back to basics.
The composer, 30, will take to the stage of Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater in New York Tuesday for “Existential Life Crisis Lullaby.” With “high spectacle, high fashion, and high belted F sharps,” the concert will be the second in Vernon’s three-show residency at the venue and will feature guest appearances by Broadway performers Alice Ripley, Ethan Slater and Robin de Jesús, among others.
Vernon gave HuffPost a sneak peek at the show in the above video. The clip shows him performing “Make Your Mark,” a rollicking tune he’s written for a forthcoming musical, “The Tattooed Lady.”
While Vernon has been lately focused on writing material for other artists, he got his start as a singer-songwriter on the New York nightclub circuit ― and if his “Make Your Mark” performance is any indication, he hasn’t lost any of his spunk.
“As my work has taken off in theater, I’ve really stepped back from the stage,” he said. ”[But] I love getting to remind people that I’m a fierce singer and performer because I think it shocks a lot of people who have a certain idea in their head of what a composer looks like.”
Over the past two years, Vernon has emerged as a provocative and exciting talent in contemporary musical theater. His 2017 musical, “The View UpStairs,” was inspired by a 1973 arson attack on a New Orleans gay bar known as the UpStairs Lounge. Until the 2016 Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando, Florida, the UpStairs Lounge attack was the largest in U.S. history to target the LGBTQ community.
“The View UpStairs” became a surprise hit off-Broadway and has since been staged in Los Angeles and Sydney. Vernon also co-wrote a second musical, “KPOP,” a second staging of which will reportedly debut in 2019 after a successful premiere engagement last year.
Currently in development, “The Tattooed Lady” will follow a woman named Artoria who earns her living as a circus performer, showing off her tattooed body to spectators at a now-derelict Kansas sideshow.
I love getting to remind people that I’m a fierce singer and performer because I think it shocks a lot of people who have a certain idea in their head of what a composer looks like. Max Vernon
Other Broadway shows like “Barnum” and “Side Show” have looked to the circus world for inspiration, as did the 2017 movie musical “The Greatest Showman,” starring Hugh Jackman. However, Vernon said his show is unique in that its female protagonist chooses to become a “freak” on her own terms, rather than exploiting a physical feature. Hence, he believes “The Tattooed Lady” will speak to modern audiences specifically in the wake of the Women’s March and other recent feminist milestones.
As for “Existential Life Crisis Lullaby,” Vernon hopes audiences will come away from the show with a more profound, well-rounded view of his work as an artist.
“If you like my musicals and want to understand on a deeper level why I write them, this concert is the best way to do that,” the three-time Drama Desk Award nominee said. “I’m sharing really personal stories I’ve never felt comfortable saying out loud, but they felt necessary to share in this context.”
“It’s felt liberating to allow an audience into my life in that way,” he added.
Max Vernon will perform “Existential Life Crisis Lullaby” in New York Oct. 23 and Nov. 27.