When Maxwell Seelig ’22 auditioned for his role of Theodore “Laurie” Laurence in the Wheelock Family Theatre’s production of Little Women: The Broadway Musical, he was worried that his self-described clumsiness would make him a bad fit. After all, actors like Christian Bale and Timothée Chalamet have portrayed Laurie as a suave and worldly member of nineteenth-century society.
“I was one of the youngest people there, and there were actors from the Boston Conservatory auditioning, there were professionals from New York auditioning, and so I thought ‘This has been fun. I will not be getting this part,’” Max says. “But they told me they were looking specifically for a kind of quirky, awkward teenage energy.”
Based on the novel Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, the musical chronicles the lives of the March sisters—Jo, Meg, Beth, and Amy—and Laurie as they come of age in Concord, Massachusetts, during the Civil War.
Boyish charm, cracking through the real messiness of adolescence, is what director Nick Vargas wanted to find in Laurie, who ages from 16 to 21 during the course of the show, Max says. Laurie stumbles over his own words, and Max has to embody his insecurities. Every character has “genuinely human flaws,” he explains.
Max has a grueling schedule: Balancing eight shows a week and the rigors of a Milton education, he has had to manage his time with precision. Since Laurie is not in every scene, Max has squeezed in his school work during breaks in the action—he finished a paper on Antigone backstage one evening.
“When I have more stuff on my plate, my work either stays at the same level or even improves a little,” he says. “Somehow the little extra pressure seems to help me.”
Acting has been a part of Max’s life since he was at the Temple Israel of Boston’s preschool. At the age of 5, he got hooked on performing in the school’s version of Little Red Hen. He has performed in several Milton productions, including Class IV Follies and Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead.
For some years during his childhood, Max had a medical condition that affected his mood and emotions. Performing was a refuge. “I didn’t really understand what was happening around me,” he says. “Acting was an opportunity to be someone else for a moment. There’s something incredibly cathartic about that.”
The diverse, female-led cast has offered Max some powerful role models, he says. And their differences have helped shape the story.
“We have so many different voices coming into this production, so many different backgrounds,” he says. “It’s given a lot of new perspectives on questions ‘What is family?’ and ‘What is home?’ that haven’t always been included with this story before.”
The Wheelock Family Theatre is located on the campus of Boston University. Little Women runs through Sunday, February 23.