Thursday, December 2, 2021

Kessie Levy feels uncomfortable in “Caroline or Change”

NEW YORK (AP) – Cassie Levy vacated her Broadway palace in favor of a modest home in Louisiana. She changed her queen to her stepmother. And she couldn’t be happier.

The singer and actor who led the cast of Frozen as Elsa before the pandemic is now starring in the revival of Caroline or Change. on Broadway, playing a complex character in a complex musical that explores America’s racial, social, and economic differences.

“As scary as it was in the beginning, I think now I have one of the most joyful moments on stage in my entire career,” she says. “I will truly become a whole person.”

The musical, sung with a book by Tony Kushner and songs by Janine Tesori, follows a black maid and single mother named Caroline and her relationship with her white employer in Louisiana in 1963.

Caroline works in the basement, washing clothes in a starched uniform, anger boiling over the fact that the changes that excite the outside world came too late for her.

English actor Sharon D. Clark plays Caroline and makes his Broadway debut reprising his award-winning role as Olivier. Levy plays Rose’s stepmother, a transplant survivor from New York, unhappy in her new life, far from her stepson and unable to communicate with Caroline.

Director Michael Longhurst says that Rose lives in a new home away from home, in a marriage that doesn’t work, and it is painful for her to be in a house with a maid.

“I think Caissie is able to convey it so brilliantly and yet make it so enjoyable to listen to,” he says. “I think it’s bold, and I think it’s a challenge for an actress, and I think that’s what Cassie is responding to.”

The musical was already raw when it debuted two decades ago, but took on more importance after the assassination of George Floyd forced Americans to confront racial equality and justice.

“How crazy it is that we are dealing with massive racial violence in our country and in our world. This is so necessary. We still deal with many of the same things that we dealt with in the 60s, says Levy.

In many ways, Rose Levy is a touchstone for white audiences to test themselves and understand her discomfort with Caroline, despite racial and religious divisions over money, justice, and parenting.

“My heart is drawn to Rose in many ways. Sometimes I want to grab her by the shoulders, shake her and say: “Get out of this, come here!” I think it’s really interesting, ”says Levy.

She asked Kushner if Rose should be the villain of the play, and he corrected her. “He said, ‘No, not at all. I think she thinks she’s doing the right thing. ” And it informed me about everything, ”she says.

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“Each character tries to find their place in the world and do the right thing, and everyone feels isolated and alone. I think this is what makes the story so exciting and interesting. You can seem to be in all the characters at different moments and so clearly see the world from their point of view. “

Levy juggles with his work – long hours from noon at the theater to after the curtain goes down after 10 pm – with a busy family life. She and her husband, actor and teacher David Reiser, have a 5-year-old son and a 7-month-old daughter.

“I have the best husband on the planet. So I think that’s about 90% of how I work, ”she laughs. “I have to say that life is busy but wonderful.”

One of the positive aspects of the pandemic was that she had to spend every night with her family. But these days she hasn’t been home for a long time, either before bed or before dinner.

“It was definitely a transitional period because my son just started kindergarten this year, which is a big step in the new school. It’s hard not to be home to pick him up from the bus and ask, “How was school today?” “

In addition to Frozen, Levy has also appeared on Broadway in Les Miserables, Ghost in the Musical, Hair, Evil, and Hairspray.

Moving from “Frozen” – dressing “Let It Go” on a snow-covered mountain for Disney is a separate mountain for Levy to climb.

“I went from a very immobile Elsa character with all these huge songs to a very nervous, uncomfortable woman who doesn’t even sing a melodic note,” says Levy.

“Caroline, or Change” was just days away from its first preview when the pandemic closed Broadway in March 2020. Levy and her family moved to Canada for a while, where she grew up. She taught students the Zoom program and mourned the loss of her childhood friend, actor Nick Cordero, from COVID-19.

During the pandemic, her family moved to New Jersey, and she and her husband, who teaches theater at Stockton University in New Jersey, began thinking about expanding their family. They welcomed Talulu in March.

“We had a lot of food throughout the year and I was pregnant most of the time and couldn’t drink wine, which, to be honest, was very rude in the midst of the pandemic,” she says, laughing. “It wasn’t the usual amount of change to deal with, and it’s so funny that now I’m doing a show dedicated to change.”

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Mark Kennedy is in http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits

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