In Part 3 of a series of interviews with the cast of Kiss Me Kate at NextStop Theatre Company, meet Emily Levey.
Where have local audiences seen you on the stage?
I’ve had the good fortune to perform all over the DC area. You may have seen me at Adventure Theater, Keegan Theatre, Imagination Stage, The Kennedy Center’s Family Theater, Signature, and Studio Theatre.
Why did you want to be part of the cast of Kiss Me Kate at NextStop?
This show and this role have always been on my top-5 list, and I jumped at the chance to work with this production team.
What did you perform at your audition? Where were you when you got the call that you had the role?
I sang a section of “Always True to You” and danced my little heart out at the callbacks.
The offer email popped up on my phone as I was checking my work calendar during a meeting. I think I played it cool, but inside I was jumping up and down and screaming.
Who do you play in the show? How do you relate to this character?
I play Lois Lane, who plays Bianca in the show-within-the-show. She wants to be a star on Broadway, have a great time with any (and every) man who comes her way, and settle down with her sweetheart and raise a family. She’s a girl who wants it all. Who doesn’t want to have their cake and eat it too?
What’s the show about from the point of view of your character?
The show-within-the-show is Lois’ big break, her ticket to Broadway, so the show must go on despite all of the strange and unexpected things that happen. Off-stage, it ultimately all about her relationship with her boyfriend, Bill Calhoun. Neither of them are perfect, but they’re pretty perfect for each other.
Which character is most like you, and why?
This is a tough one! Because this is a backstage musical, you get a view of what goes on behind the scenes. Yes, these are actors, but they’re also really live people with lives and problems. The theme of finding the balance between your onstage life and your offstage life is present throughout the show. I think that’s a timeless and totally relate-able struggle, and definitely one I’m familiar with.
Although I certainly relate to Lois in that she wants a life as a performer and a life offstage, her views on her own romantic relationships are far more, let’s say, liberal, than mine. So, I think I’d have to say Harry/Baptista, the character actor who just wants to come to work, be part of a solid performance where nothing goes wrong, and then go home and take care of other things (like going to the dentist) is who I’m most like.
What have been some of the challenges you have faced preparing for your role and how have Director Michael Bobbitt, Choreographer Rachel Leigh Dolan, and Musical Director Steve Przybylski helped you through these challenges?
The challenge for me in this show was finding an arc for my character that made sense. Lois could become pretty one-dimensional if you let her, and I wanted her to have a real story to tell. Michael is an amazing director to work with, because he trusts his actors 100%. He makes you feel confident to try anything, because he’ll tell you if it doesn’t work, and help you find 6 ways to make it even better if it does. Rachel has this remarkable talent for challenging people to do their best (possibly even better than they thought they could do). She makes EVERYONE look good. Steve is so open to collaboration and new ideas. He makes you part of the creative process, rather than telling you how it must be done.
What is your favorite scene that you are in and not in and why?
I love the fight scene between Kate and Petruccio (choreographed by Kristen Pilgrim.) I think Karen Vincent and Paul Scanlan are hilarious and fearless.
What is your favorite line and lyric hat your character recites and someone else recites in the show?
Again, this is a tough one. How can you pick just one favorite Cole Porter lyric or Shakespeare line!? I do love getting to sing “Mr. Gable, I mean Clarke, wants me on his boat, to park. If a Gable boat means a sable coat, anchors aweigh!”
My favorite line that I don’t say is when Petruccio says to Baptista “I hear you have a daughter called Katherine, fair and virtuous” and Baptista replies “I have a daughter sir, called Katherine.” Comedy gold. Nicely done, Mr. Shakespeare.
What is your favorite song that you sing and your favorite song that someone else sings and why?
“Another Opening of Another Show” is the perfect opening number. It sets the energy for the rest of the show, and the entire cast gets to be together onstage. It’s my favorite one to sing.
My favorite song that I don’t sing is “Brush Up Your Shakespeare,” because the lyrics are brilliant and very PG-13 at the same time, and because Drew Stairs and Kevin Place are a delight to watch.
What does Kiss Me Kate have to say to today’s audiences?
The backstage (and onstage) struggles of the characters are remarkably timeless and relevant. What was funny when Shakespeare wrote it was still funny when Cole Porter added to it, and it remains funny today.
What’s next for you after Kiss Me Kate?
I’ll be at Theater J this December for a special holiday run of Stars of David: Story to Song. It’s a lovely musical revue that tells the stories of various Jewish public figures, and I get to play Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Fran Drescher, among others. How lucky can one girl get?!
What do you want audiences to take with them after seeing Kiss Me Kate?
That chicks dig Shakespeare.
No, seriously, I hope audiences leave singing a song from the show, and with confidence that there is exciting, must-see theater happening here at NextStop.
Meet the Director and Cast of ‘Kiss Me Kate’ at NextStop Theatre Company: Part 1: Director Michael J. Bobbitt.
Meet the Director and Cast of ‘Kiss Me Kate’ at NextStop Theatre Company: Part 2: Hasani Allen.
Lauren Honeycutt reviews Kiss Me Kate on DCMetroTheaterArts.