BWW Review: CAISSIE LEVY, Cadogan Hall
Caissie Levy made her triumphant return across the Atlantic on Sunday night, marking her first UK performance since 2013. Club 11 London has delivered some brilliant Broadway belters to us over the past year, but the inclusion of Levy in this repertoire has elevated its offering to the next level.
The concert setlist was expertly crafted to include the expected crowd-pleasers, a substantial helping of Levy's favourite non-MT songs...and some unexpected reimagined musical theatre classics.
Kicking things off with some non-musical theatre songs gave the audience an immediate insight into the other side of Levy, showcasing her love for performing in a more folky, soft jazz style. Anyone familiar with Levy will know that she has an almost inhuman vocal range, but not only that, her voice lends itself well to any genre, and her opening set was the perfect vehicle to demonstrate that.
Fear not though, MT lovers, as Levy quickly segued into her back catalogue. A mash-up of "Aquarius/Good Morning Sunshine", as featured on her recent album, was her first choice, moving into "With You" from Ghost - much to the delight of the audience, who audibly gasped as soon as the opening chords played. For anyone who wasn't deeply entrenched in the Ghost phenomenon when it was in the West End in 2012, witnessing this performance of "With You" would leave you in no doubt as to how this signature song propelled Levy into stardom.
Speaking of stardom, no role has generated as much of a profile for Levy as Elsa in Frozen has, which she visibly appreciates and treasures. "Dangerous to Dream" and "Monster" are both new tracks written by Bobby and Kristen Lopez for Elsa, and Levy performed both with a vocal control and emotional resonance that's pretty hard to find.
Sprinkling personal anecdotes in between songs is the hallmark of any concert performance, but Levy gave the audience refreshingly honest insights into her world - explaining how she was cast in Waitress shortly before the role of Elsa came her way was, I suspect, news to many of us! "I Dreamed a Dream" from Les Miserables and "Take Me or Leave Me" from Rent were next up, as well as "Everything Changes" from Waitress. (Note: it was proven here, if there was any doubt, that Levy would be an incredible Jenna.)
One particularly touching story was told - and it feels crude to repeat it here - which gave us beautiful context to her next performance, of "Bring Him Home" in Les Miserables. It was extremely emotional, and it felt like we had just shared something rather special with this remarkable woman.
Levy's special guest was Ashley Park - Tony Award and Drama Desk Award nominee - recently seen on Broadway in Mean Girls. Park and Levy duetted on "I Don't Know How to Love Him" from Jesus Christ Superstar, and Park proved her credentials with beautiful vocals...and an infectious energy that was rather mesmerising.
Park returned in the second act with a solo, "Iowa" - not a song that I recognised, but it was a very powerful performance, and she undoubtedly left us wanting more. This felt like a very natural platform to introduce Park to London, and I hope we see her cast over here in future.
As the concert drew to a close, and the audience began to digest the wide range of vocal stylings we'd just been exposed to, Levy delivered what we'd all been waiting for. With the Frozen creative team currently in London casting the UK cast of Frozen (Michael Grandage was in the audience, in fact), there's increasing anticipation for the show, and it would have been odd if "Let It Go" wasn't included on the setlist.
Interestingly, Levy chose to perform the Demi Lovato version - which, for the purists among the audience, wouldn't have been the preferred choice, but I think it was the smart choice. I'm not privy to her motivations, but to me, it meant that Levy was able to be the first person to debut "Let It Go" to a London audience, without treading on the toes of the future UK Elsa. The honour of delivering "Let It Go" in its truest form has been reserved for whoever takes the helm over here next year, and this simply emphasises that Levy is a class act, in all respects.
It is no secret that Caissie Levy has unbridled talent, stamina and range that is very hard to find. But what's almost more impressive is her willingness to be vocal about her beliefs and her experiences, imbuing her performances with a disarming depth. It's very hard not to warm to anyone who isn't afraid to be so open, honest, and real. Raw talent aside, these unaffected and earnest qualities can be seen and felt in every note sung, in every lyric emoted, and this is what makes Levy one of the greats.