The first thing Max Crumm does when meeting me at Physical Graffitea in the East Village is apologize for being late (it was only by a few minutes) and tell me about how he had to clean up after his dog (I’ll leave the rest of the details up to your imagination). His easy-going, friendly nature is about what you’d expect from the guy who charmed America and won the reality show competition Grease: You’re The One That I Want, despite being the underdog. He is currently playing shy guy Scott, a far cry from Danny Zucko, in Disaster!, the off-Broadway 1970s disaster movie musical. The show just announced that it’s closing on April 11, but after reading this interview, you’re probably going to want to buy a ticket.
L: Are you having as much fun as it looks like you’re having?
M: Yeah. The show is so much fun. The cast is incredibly talented. Everybody’s voices are so great, but they’re like new best friends instantly because they’re so professional and so wonderful and so talented. Jen Simard is probably my favorite actor I’ve ever seen live in anything in this show. It’s like her and James Corden in One Man, Two Guvnors. Seth Rudetsky who wrote it is so inclusive and brilliant and the atmosphere he created for the show is excellent, so I feel like that carries to the stage where it’s so much fun to watch.
L: Since Grease, you’ve done off-Broadway. Did you want to get away from Broadway or is that just what came up?
M: Oh no. The thing with that is Grease was just so much exposure and so crazy so fast and I was just like a normal dude from LA and I wasn’t as ready for starring on Broadway as the Laura Osnes was and is. She was pedigreed for Broadway. I also feel there are more roles for her type—gorgeous, beautiful, ingénue, so talented. That’s like Broadway. And for me I’m a character actor, but it wasn’t like I chose to not do more. Like I told Josh Ferri when I did a Broadway.com interview, I was not out when I was doing Grease, so I felt like I needed to go home and come out and get my head straight and not do that while I was in New York.
L: Were you happy with the way you were portrayed on the reality show?
M: Oh yeah. The producers were really cool and nice to me and they portrayed me pretty normally. They portrayed everyone pretty much how everyone was. Some people will tell you, “They made me look weird,” but it’s like, well, you said some of that stuff. But I feel like I was pretty much portrayed as my self.
L: How did you feel about the nickname Slacker Danny?
M: I asked them about that. I asked Kathleen Marshall why was I Slacker Danny. She was like, “Well, we couldn’t call you Stoner Danny.” I wasn’t a stoner. I was just lazy.
L: I know you have a lot of nice things to say about Laura Osnes. Everyone loves her. But can you say one mean thing about Laura Osnes?
M: There’s literally nothing. There’s literally nothing.
L: So she really is perfect?
M: Absolutely. I mean nobody’s perfect. I don’t know if she would like me saying she’s perfect either. I guess the meanest thing I could say about Laura is she’s super competitive when you play board games. But it makes sense she’s competitive, she won a reality show. I mean, I’m competitive. She’s not a sore loser. There’s really nothing. She’s genuinely a Christ-like wonderful perfect. She deserves every bit of acclaim and love and friendship that she has. She works so hard. She’s one of the hardest working people I’ve ever met.
L: What’s your favorite board game?
M: I love Settlers of Catan. I have it but I haven’t played it in a while. I’ve been playing My Little Pony Monopoly a lot. I’m Fluttershy. I don’t know if you know what that means. She’s one of the ponies.
L: Is that the new My Little Pony?
L: I don’t know those. I had the old ones when I was little.
M: My sister did too and I just loved them. I liked Treasure Trolls also.
L: Did you have a favorite stuffed animal?
M: I had the Wuzzles. They were half something half something. My favorite was Rhinokey. It was like a rhino monkey. And that was my favorite stuffed animal. That and the Princess Diana Beanie Baby. It was the purple bear with the rose. I was so weird.
L: Do you watch reality television?
M: Yeah. Sometimes. I watch RuPaul’s Drag Race. I think that’s a great show. I watch Face Off. That’s a really good show. Where they do special effects make-up and they compete. Is there anything else I watch that’s a reality show? Not really. I get too invested so I feel like I can’t because I feel like I’ve been there.
L: Do you still get recognized from Grease?
M: Yeah. I do sometimes. It’s very humbling and nice. Some people are like, “Oh this is so annoying but I voted for you.” Why is that annoying? Like, thank you so much for saying hi and telling me. I’m always so grateful to hear that from people because they are the reason I get to do what I do, so I always want to give them a big hug.
L: I voted for you.
M: You did? Thank you. [Ed note: I really did vote for him and I didn’t say it just to get a hug, but at this point in the interview, he, true to his word, gave me a hug.]
L: I also saw F#%king Up Everything, which I loved.
M: You liked it? That show was so much fun. I loved that character. Christian is such a great character. I would die to do that character again. Cause I love the Muppets. I love puppets.
L: So who’s your favorite Muppet?
M: Janice. She’s always been my favorite. I have no idea why. I just think she’s cool and she’s in Electric Mayhem. I always loved Piggy too. I like the girls. And I love Kermit. Kermit, Piggy, and Janice, but Janice is my favorite.
L: What’s your favorite ’70s song?
M: You mean from the show or in general?
L: In general. Or from the show.
M: I’m going to say this and later I’m going to be reading it and I’m going to be like that’s not really my favorite, but I probably like Donna Summer “Bad Girls.” I like Donna Summer a lot. My dad likes Donna Summer a lot so I like Donna Summer. The Beatles are ’60s right?
L: Yeah. But their solo stuff came out in the ’70s.
M: Maybe “Imagine.” I’m going to say “Imagine” and “Bad Girls.”
L: What is your favorite mid-to-late ’90s pop song?
M: It’s obviously going to be Bye Bye Bye. Or is that 2000? 1999 is “Baby One More Time.” I definitely know that. I’m a shameless pop junkie. I like too much terrible pop music. I feel like I didn’t start listening to my own music until 1999 or 2000. Sorry that I’m taking so long. Probably a Spice Girls song. I’ll just say Spice Girls “Wannabe.”
L: What was the last book you read?
M: I’m reading the second book in a series right now. The last book I read was the first book in the series, which is called The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. It’s a really cool book. I like fantasy. So it’s about this guy called Kvothe. He starts out as a kid traveling in like a circus kind of thing and it takes you on this journey of how he becomes a powerful wizard. And right now he’s in college. It’s kind of like a more grown-up in-depth funny cool Harry Potter. The second book is dragging right now, but it’s ok. I don’t do well with tons of chapters on library research. That’s what’s happening right now. But it’s a good book. He’s a great writer.
L: What’s a word you use too much?
M: Can it be a phrase? I feel like I say “do you know what I mean” a lot when I’m done talking. Or “you know.” It’s people’s way of forcing people to actively listen to them, you know? See I just did it. [Ed note: He did say “you know” a lot in the interview. I took them all out except for that one.] I probably say “like” too much also.
L: What word or phrase do you not use enough?
M: I’m not sure. That’s interesting to think about though. I probably don’t say” live from New York it’s Saturday night” enough. I probably don’t say “excuse me” enough.
L: Do you have a dream role?
M: To be honest I’m not a very good musical theater person. I don’t know very many shows and I don’t know what I’m right for. Seymour in Little Shop I think would be a really awesome role to play. I feel like I lie in this interesting spot with musicals where I feel like I’m not handsome enough for those handsome roles but I’m not quite nerdy enough for the nerdy roles.
L: You played Danny Zucko.
M: Right. I feel like that was a fluke. I feel like I can do both. But it’s hard for people to see you as both things. I would also love to play Christian in F#%king Up Everything on Broadway. I would love to be a part of A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder. That show is so good. I would be anything in that.
L: Do you ever do plays or want to do plays?
M: I would love to. Plays are wonderful, beautiful things. Sometimes I want to just do those because it’s stressful to have to sing. I love to sing so much. I wouldn’t consider myself a singer singer. I can sing. I love Shakespeare. I want to play Puck in Midsummer. Oh wait. Another dream role. When I’m older, I would love to play the Baker in Into The Woods.
L: What do you do the rest of the week? (Ed note: Disaster! only plays on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursday, and Fridays)
M: I hang out with my dog. I currently just moved to the East Village. I hang out with my boyfriend. Do you know who Taylor Trensch is?
M: That’s my boyfriend.
L: Really? I interviewed him too.
M: You did?
L: Yeah, when he was in Bare.
M: He was so good in that. He’s so cool. He’s the best. I hang out with him a lot. I write music. I tentatively play piano and guitar. I don’t like to say I play because I kind of don’t. I write weird, funny music. I’ve been writing a musical with my friend for like 6 years. We’re trying to get that to a 54 Below concert later this year and maybe a reading.
L: What’s your favorite breakfast cereal?
M: I never have it anymore, but Kix. Pops are good too. Corn Pops. I gotta have my Pops. They’re just so bad for you. When we were kids there were so many good commercials for things that were so bad for you.
L: And since we’re at a tea shop, what’s your favorite tea?
M: I like Lady Grey, which is Earl Grey tea with a little bit of lavender.