Interview with Caissie Levy
Having started out playing Maureen Johnson in the musical Rent, Caissie Levy’s career continues to go from strength to strength. With major roles in Wicked, Hair, Hairspray and of course originating the part of Molly Jensen in Ghost The Musical, Caissie is a West End and Broadway star shining brightly.
Ghost The Musical: “It was an insane amount of work, and hugely rewarding. Working with our talented cast and creative team was amazing, specifically working with our songwriters, Dave Stewart and Glen Ballard – both absolute legends in the music industry – and also with our brilliant book writer, Bruce Joel Rubin.”
To celebrate the release of her debut album ‘With You’, Caissie performed in New York on 14th January and is following this with two concerts at the Hippodrome in Leicester Square on 26th and 27th January 2013.
Enjoy our interview with Caissie Levy, who earlier this week answered some questions about herself and her career.
Having graduated from Westdale Secondary School, you were due to study Shakespeare in Canada but were offered a place at New York’s American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA). How difficult was this career choice?
Not a tough choice at all. I always loved New York and when I was accepted to drama school there, I knew I had to go. Studying musical theatre was very attractive to me as up to that point, I mostly did plays and sang in bands, but I loved musicals. I knew it was the opportunity of a lifetime to move to the centre of the theatre world and give my dream a shot.
Within a week of graduating from AMDA, you were playing the role of Maureen Johnson in the U.S. national tour of Rent. What was it like performing in your first major role?
It was surreal. I was so young and confident that I didn’t realize how insane the opportunity was. I just jumped right in and was overjoyed to be part of the RENT legacy. I am still close with my cast mates from that time. I learned so much about acting by playing different cities each night, and living the life of a gypsy on the road.
You played the part of Penny Pingleton, and understudying Amber Von Tussle, on Broadway and in the national tour of Hairspray. What was it like being a part of this fun musical?
Hairspray is one of the greatest modern musicals written, and I loved it when I saw it on Broadway. I actually started out in the ensemble in the original Toronto cast, understudying Penny and Amber, and then played Penny full-time on the US national tour and Broadway. It was incredibly meaningful to have been part of three companies and to have made my Broadway debut as Penny.
You starred as Elphaba in the Los Angeles production of Wicked, having previously understudied the role on Broadway. What are some of your favourite memories of your time in the show?
Elphaba is such an iconic role and I loved the challenge of playing this strong, but sensitive and also at times funny, character. I loved being part of Wicked, not just because of the fantastic score, but also because the story has touched so many people’s lives.
You performed the role of Sheila in the Broadway revival of Hair, and also in the West End. What did you enjoy most about the show?
HAIR marks the most fulfilling chapter of my career to date. It was my first time originating a role (although it was a revival, it hadn’t been done in 40 years), it was a truly brilliant cast of actors, we were the hit of the season and won the Tony for best revival, and the show meant the world to all of us. We did a lot of social action outside the show, specifically for equal rights with the LGBT community both in New York and throughout the country, and the whole cast took the show’s message to heart offstage. Sheila is an incredible role, and I got to sing some of the most iconic songs from HAIR – Easy To Be Hard, The Flesh Failures, and Good Morning Starshine. Bringing it to the West End was a huge honor and dream come true.
You originated the role of Molly Jensen in Ghost the Musical, which opened at the Manchester Opera House before transferring to London’s West End and then on to Broadway. What was it like originating the role and then being a major part of a hugely successful musical?
It was an insane amount of work, and hugely rewarding. Working with our talented cast and creative team was amazing, specifically working with our songwriters, Dave Stewart and Glen Ballard – both absolute legends in the music industry – and also with our brilliant book writer, Bruce Joel Rubin. All three of these men are such generous, kind and inspiring artists. The show was embraced by Manchester and West End audiences and we all really believed in the show. Bringing it to Broadway was the icing on top of an already super-delicious cake.
Your debut album (January 2013) is titled “With You”. What were your inspirations for the songs on the album?
I love recording and have been fortunate to do two cast albums (HAIR and GHOST) as well as a bunch of work with emerging songwriters. I wanted my debut album to reflect my personal musical style, what I like to listen to. And that is mostly indie-rock/pop. I wanted to cover songs from my Broadway shows but in a style that would appeal to those not familiar with Broadway, as well as those who already are. I’ve loved working on it, and I’m very proud of it.
You are promoting the release of your album with concerts alongside your husband, David, in New York on the January 14th, followed by two dates at the London Hippodrome Casino on 26th/27th January. How was the New York concert?
The NYC CD release was amazing! So many friends and fans came out to support, and the artists we had singing in David’s set were incredible. The whole night was a huge success and we are so looking forward to coming back to London to re-connect with friends and fans there and share our music.
You also have some special guests with you at the Hippodrome Casino this month. What can fans look forward to?
We’ve gotten so lucky to have some of the greats from the West End come join us. Oliver Tompsett, Gavin Creel, Jodie Jacobs, Carley Stenson and my good friends from Ghost, Paul Ayers and Jenny Fitzpatrick. You’ll hear them all sing original songs by David Are in the opening sets and then come back and duet with me in my sets.
We are only in January – what more can we expect from you this year?
Hopefully lots! For now it’s all about ‘WITH YOU’ and playing lots of gigs, getting my music out there. It’s also pilot season so I’ll be back and forth between New York and LA auditioning for film and television roles. And of course, I’m always working on readings of new musicals and plays. Hopefully 2013 will afford me some new challenges to work hard and grow more as an actor.
You have many supporters of your career – have you any message for your fans?
I’m always amazed at the generosity of theatre-goers at the stage door and over Twitter. I love to hear from everyone and truly appreciate the fact that people care about what I’m up to as an artist and just as a person. So… thank you from the bottom of my heart, for caring. I hope to do you proud!
Many thanks Caissie and best wishes for the new album ‘With You’ and your future success!
You can follow Caissie Levy on Twitter @CaissieLevy and her official website at www.caissielevy.com
I hope you enjoyed our interview with Caissie Levy.
Interviewed by Neil who you can follow on Twitter @LondonTheatre1
Updated 11th October 2014