We caught up with the lovely Caissie Levy who currently stars as Fantine in the Broadway revival of Les Miserables.
We discussed everything from her experience performing in Les Mis to what advice she has for young artists (which won’t cost you $500!)
Congratulations on the all the success so far for Les Miserables! What was it like when you first started rehearsal as Fantine? How do you like to begin preparing for a role?
Thank you very much! Starting rehearsals for Fantine in Les Mis was totally surreal. Les Miserables was the first musical I ever saw (Original Toronto company, when I was eight years old!) and I was mesmerised. To be cast years later as Fantine in this huge re-imagined revival was actually a dream come true, as Les Mis was the show that made me want to be an actor. As far as prep went, I avoided the film and old recordings of past Fantines, and instead studied the novel and did a lot of research on prostitution and the plight of poor women in general from that time period. It helped tremendously in understanding Fantine’s swift descent into devastating circumstances.
If you could play any role, regardless of age or gender in any Broadway revival, who would you choose and why?
That’s a great question — there are so many! The first one that springs to mind is Trina in Falsettoland. I’d LOVE to play that role in a few years. The role’s got everything - both comedic and dramatic elements - along with some gorgeous songs, and a story that I’ve always loved and been inspired by. I innately understand so many of the key elements of that story, and I adore Bill Finn’s stunning score.
You were last seen on Broadway in the new musical, Ghost, based on the famous film. Do you find any difference between performing never before heard music, like in Ghost, vs. the classics, like in Les Miserables?
There’s a huge difference, definitely. With Les Mis, the audience members mostly know (or think they know!) what they’re getting into when they buy tickets to the show. With Ghost, they had no clue other than their preconceived ideas from the film, and the pedigree of the brilliant rock stars, Glen Ballard and Dave Stewart, who wrote the score. As an actor, you always hope the audience comes into the theatre with fresh eyes and open hearts, but ultimately you can’t control their experience. The only thing that’s ever in my control is singing the score to the best of my ability that day, and hoping that the audience is moved.
What was it like putting together your debut album With You? With so many songs in your repertoire, how did you choose which ones to include?
It was incredibly exciting to make With You. Making a solo album was a long time coming for me, and I wanted to be sure it reflected my musical taste, and that it didn’t ￼￼just sound like a vanity project where I just recorded covers from musicals for the hell of it. It was very important to me that it encompassed and highlighted what makes me and my voice unique - the pop/rock/folk qualities that I’m known for. We made it in a few weeks total between Ghost and Murder Ballad - insanely fast - but totally worth it. My collaborators on it were my fantastically talented music director, Matt Hinkely, and the folks at Yellow Sound. They were all incredible. Choosing the songs was tough. I knew that as soon as I started Ghost, I’d one day do a mashup of “With You” from Ghost and “Without You” from Rent (my first professional gig). Beyond that, I wasn’t sure. It was really fun to sit down with the incredible scores of the shows I’ve been fortunate to be part of, and listen for what songs might be interesting if stripped down and re-imagined.
There is also a song written by your husband, David Are, on the album called Out of the Blue. Besides the obvious, what draws you to his music and lyrics?
Yes! “Out of the Blue” is one of my all time favourite tunes of David’s. I was so excited he was into the idea of me doing an acoustic version, as the original version of that song is sort of trip-hop-y and electronic, and sung by our dear friend Gavin Creel. I think David’s voice as a writer is hands-down the most original I’ve come across in years. Yes, he’s my husband, but before he was my husband, David was just a guy I knew only from his awesome music. I’m lucky to be one of the actors in town who continually sings and records music of new writers, so I think I’m pretty well versed in the next generation of musical theatre writers. There’s so much talent out there, and so much exciting work being done. To me, what separates David Are’s writing, is that no one on the scene sounds like him. He fuses musical theatre storytelling with the accessibility of true top 40 pop music - electronica, hip-hop, and pop - in a way that no one else is doing right now.
As an actress who has toured, been apart of regional productions, and has landed in both Broadway and Off-Broadway houses, what advice would you give to younger performers who wish to call the theatre their home?
My main advice is get on stage. I did, and do, most of my learning by doing. These days, there’s so much information available to young actors, whether it’s drama schools, classes, masterclasses, websites, magazines, access to actors they admire via Facebook and Twitter etc, and they’re all valuable resources. But, they’re also all easy ways to get in your head, and forget that acting is doing. Being onstage and going to see theatre are the best ways to hone your craft. Learn what it is you like and don’t like by doing and seeing theatre. Start a scene study group with your actor friends, and get on your feet working on a play you love. You don’t need to spend $500 on a fancy class to have the chance to act and be creative. And above all, be a nice person. In my experience, no one ￼￼￼￼￼￼wants to work with a super talented asshole. Be kind, be curious, and don’t wait for an invitation to make art.
Don’t miss your chance to see Caissie Levy in Les Miserables! Get tickets from just $57 on TodayTix.