Issue:  Vol. 47 / No. 46 / 16 November 2017
 

Pre-Frozen

Theatre


Before Caissie Levy returns to Broadway as the star of Disney's upcoming "Frozen," she will perform songs from her Broadway resume at Feinstein's at the Nikko on Nov. 16-18. Photo: Jenny Anderson
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Caissie Levy was invited to a princess party a few years back, and the hosts asked her to sing that great princess anthem "Let It Go." She was happy to oblige, but she wanted to do the Oscar-winning song from "Frozen" her way. And her way helped land her the coveted role of Princess Elsa in the hot-ticket Broadway adaptation of the animated feature. Starting in February, she'll be singing "Let It Go" the Disney way for many months to come. She may or may not be singing it – more on that below – during her Nov. 16-18 cabaret show at Feinstein's at the Nikko.

The 2015 tiara to-do was the first edition of the Broadway Princess Party, now an annual tradition at Feinstein's/54 Below in New York, with a roster of distaff stage performers singing songs fit for a royal highness. "When they asked me to sing 'Let It Go,' I didn't want to just sing it straight because at the time every belter in the city was singing it. I wanted to do something offbeat, and we came up with a mash up of 'Let It Go' and the Beatles' 'Let It Be,' and who knew people would love it so much?"

Among the hundreds of thousands of YouTube clickers was someone who sent it to someone at Disney. "Even though no one was worrying about who was going to play Elsa at that time," Levy said, "it found its way to the powers-that-be, and that certainly helped me get an audition."

Levy was speaking from a bench in Manhattan's Riverside Park, with her almost-2-year-old son in her lap, "trying to dodge all the birds that are eating and pooping everywhere." This is a downtime for the cast of "Frozen," as the creative team works on changes after a summer tryout in Denver, with rehearsals resuming in January. "My schedule is only crazy now because I have a small human I'm responsible for," she said. "But with this downtime, I'm able to do some concert work, and they asked me if I could come out to San Francisco."

Levy is putting together a new show for the Feinstein's engagement, which will include songs from a Broadway and touring resume that includes "Rent," "Hair," "Les Miserables," "Ghost," "Wicked" and "Hairspray." Whatever songs she performs from these shows will not be like they were done on stage.

"I'm sort of an unconventional Broadway actor in that my sound isn't the sort you would assume should be on Broadway, so I like to bring my pop-rock sensibility to theater songs, and make them cool and offbeat," she said. "I'll be doing plenty of high belting, so hopefully that will satiate some of the folks coming to the show."

The SF-bound Caissie Levy starred as Elsa in the pre-Broadway Denver run of "Frozen," and she'll be playing the role on Broadway starting in February. Photo: Dean van Meer/Disney

She'll also be performing some songs from the shows she almost did. "In this business," Levy said, "you start out thinking you're going to play one role, and something comes from out of the blue and knocks you in a new direction." She declined to give any examples, wanting to keep her set list a surprise, but the Broadway hit "Waitress" certainly fits the description she laid out.

"I had just been offered the chance to replace Sara Bareilles in 'Waitress,' and that was all coming together, and then I got a call saying that I was offered 'Frozen.' It was one of the beautiful but hard moments when you get two jobs at once and you have to choose, but it's better than getting no jobs with nothing to choose, which sucks all around."

A native of Hamilton, Canada, Levy was 22 when she got her Actors Equity card as a standby in a summer-stock production of "Smokey Joe's Cafe." As Levy recalled, "I was covering for all the women but I never went on, thank God. They were, like, 30 years older than me and seasoned Broadway divas, and I was, like, this kid out of school who was, 'What's happening?'"

Her Broadway debut came a few years later when she took over the role of Penny Pingleton in "Hairspray," and she has been a regular visitor to Broadway ever since. Without a doubt, "Frozen," with an enormous built-in fan base and Disney machinery behind it, will be the crown jewel in Levy's tiara.

So, she was asked, will she be singing any songs from "Frozen" at Feinstein's? "That's a question mark," she replied. "Disney really wants to present the show in its entirety at the right time, so it may not be the right thing for me to be singing those songs now."

But how about her mash up of "Let It Out" and "Let It Be," which wouldn't be revealing anything new? "I'm not sure that's something we can do, but I'm still working on it. So never say never."

 






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