Ghost's Caissie Levy breathes new life into the popular supernatural classic
by William V. Madison Photographer Michael Flores
Caissie Levy persistently describes herself as “lucky,” and you can see why: in a career that’s barely a decade long, she’s already played most of her favorite roles – in national tours, in London, and on Broadway – and even gone unplugged at Joe’s Pub. Currently she’s starring in Ghost: The Musical as Molly, in the West End, and now brings to New York, singing songs tailored to fit her by Dave Stewart and Glen Ballard.
Clearly, though, the harder Levy works, the more “luck” she has. And while she’s peppy and fun when welcoming a guest backstage at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, it’s quickly apparent that her determination is as steely as her well-toned arms.
So if she started her first professional job – starring as Maureen in the national tour of Rent – one week after graduating from acting school, it’s because she treated auditions like a military campaign during her last semester at New York’s American Musical and Dramatic Academy.
“I’ve always been very ambitious and very focused when it comes to work,” Levy says. “I always – especially in those early years – felt that I had something to prove and that I was going to seize every opportunity I had. And that’s what I did. I didn’t really stop to think about how crazy it was. I think if I had, I maybe would have panicked.’”
She wasn’t even nervous, she says, when she made her first entrance in Rent, a show she’d grown up singing along with. “It’s funny how, over the years, when you learn more and more is at stake – that’s when the nerves kick in. You have more to lose. When you’re 21, and it’s your first job, and it’s a show you know all the words to anyways that everyone loves, you just think, ‘Okay, yeah, I’m gonna do this!’”
“Because Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore are so brilliant in those roles, we didn’t want to replicate what they did,” she says, “and luckily we were never forced to. They always wanted us to approach it with fresh eyes.”
In a dressing room decorated with opening-night cards and gifts from Ghost fans, Levy’s pre-show routine includes “checking in with my voice,” along with stretching. She credits Pilates for the breath control for her singing and the stamina for a role that has her “running around the stage all the time” and dodging Ghost’s shifting sets and high-tech special effects. Add in six costume changes and prepping the clay for Ghost’s famous pottery scene, and she’s “up and down these stairs like a mad person.”
Indeed, while co-star Richard Fleeshman is built like an action figure, Levy easily keeps pace with him, just as she more than holds her own in the least flashy – and therefore most difficult – of Ghost’s four principal roles. Molly could easily become merely a sad, pretty girl, but Levy researched the stages of grief and, with director Matthew Warchus, found “the appropriate moments to infuse those emotions into the scene work, so that it didn’t become a one-note thing.”
“Molly is the mirror for the audience,” the Ontario native says, “because they’re sort of in that same position, where we’re skeptical. We don’t want to believe. I feel like I have a kinship with the audience in that way. If it were real life, every single person in the audience would be in Molly’s shoes.”
Levy and Fleeshman strenuously avoid reruns of the Ghost movie on TV. “Because Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore are so brilliant in those roles, we didn’t want to replicate what they did,” she says, “and luckily we were never forced to. They always wanted us to approach it with fresh eyes.”
Even Molly’s stage wig is inspired by Levy’s own hairstyle. “Thank God, because I don’t think I’d look good with that Demi Moore bob,” she muses.
A “huge sing,” Ghost is a musical challenge, too. “Now that I’ve been singing it for about a year and a half, eight shows a week, it’s very much in my body,” Levy says. Much the way she shaped Molly’s emotional character, she sought variety in her music, too, reserving her “beltress” for select outbursts.
Looming on Levy’s horizon is the “long overdue” exploration of a TV and film career. She’d love to do another gig at Joe’s Pub, too, but for now, she’s doing her utmost to ensure that Ghost enjoys a long Broadway run.
“Ultimately we want the audience to be wowed by all the technology,,” she says, “but we want them to focus on the story, which is what does happen each night. I mean, they don’t cry because the walls move, they cry because Molly and Sam are together. As long as we hit that home and the scenery works, we’re good to go!”