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Performers of The Month - Staff Choice Most Outstanding Performer of March - Jane Levy

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This article was written by Donna Cromeans, Bex, Dahne, Ellys Cartin, Folie-lex, Kareena, and Luana. The article was edited by Donna Cromeans (DJRiter). Prepared for publishing by Aimee Hicks.

On paper, the premise of Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist may have appeared like stunt programming. How could a series possibly maintain its premise and keep its audience by having it’s lead character hear the thoughts of others expressed through song? From the first episode it became clear that this show was going to succeed for two main reasons, one- it was more than just a show with musical numbers it was a touching, heartwarming show with rich storylines earnestly played; and two – the producers cast the amazingly talented and versatile Jane Levy as their lead. In Zoey’s Extraordinary Glitch (1x8), Zoey hears other people express their emotions through popular song and she helps them face the things they don’t want to face. However, this time it’s Zoey who is afraid of facing things after her father’s heartbreaking prognosis, and she is the one singing her feelings, out loud. What could have been a farce and gimmicky turns out to be an emotional and heartbreaking performance from Levy. She performs every musical number in the episode from Christmas Songs to Billy Joel and tender declarations of love. For her incredible performance, Jane Levy was selected as SpoilerTV’s Staff Choice Performer of the Month for March.
Continue reading below to find out our thoughts on the episode. After reading, please leave your own thoughts in the comments.

Jane Levy performs in what amounts to an amazing six production numbers in this episode, some involving very complicated choreography. Of those six, which was your favorite and why?

Bex: Levy’s version of Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours” is my favorite of the episode. It is a heartfelt number, that’s fun, sweet, and a little bit flirty. It’s softer in tone than some of the other songs in the episode and allows Zoey a moment to finally be honest about what Max means to her. The “this is our fate” almost feels like a reassurance to the audience that these two are endgame.

Dahne: “How Do I Live?” was such a punch to the gut and heart that it automatically is my favorite. In fact, it’s the reason why I voted for Levy for Performer of the Month. However, it is also my vote for the most emotional and the best dramatic scene, so I’ll leave it to the next question. My second favorite song of the night was “Crazy” because of the strong visuals. I loved how they used the furniture as part of the choreography and the aerial shots were amazing. Even the costuming played a part with Zoey’s pink sweater sticking out amongst the muted colors everyone else was wearing. In some ways, it felt like an old-time musical with current music. Plus, I had no idea that Zoey was singing and dancing in real life, not just in her head, until Max pointed it out. It was a great twist that set up the rest of the episode. A shout out also to “Pressure” for being the most cringe-worthy fun and “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” which cracked me up.

Donna: Every performance Levy gave was amazing that it’s difficult to choose just one, she brought something different to each song. For sheer emotional punch how could I not choose “How Do I Live?” by Lee Ann Rimes, that Zoey sings to her father? Throughout the entire episode she had been bottling up her emotions and, in this song, she lets them all burst through. Singing a song, while trying to not sing a song takes a special kind of talent and watching Levy try to stop herself from singing “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” was a masterful piece of work.

Ellys: The stripped-down version of “I Want You to Want Me” was everything, and I didn’t know whether to blush or hide my eyes behind my hands. Levy just smolders during that number. My favorite, however, would be “Crazy.” The physicality of the choreography in that one requires Levy to work in all these tiny gestures and emotional expressions; everything from the limp way she throws her arm on one guy’s shoulder to the brief panic on her face on the couch to the wistful head tilt in the elevator hits you with equal force. It quite possibly makes you dance and sing along for a little bit of that catharsis we could all use right now.

Folie-lex: I’ve got to go with “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”, just because of the whole premise of that performance, where the audience got to see how those moments actually looked like in real life and not how it was playing out in Zoey’s head. Just the level of difficulty that had puts it at the top for me.

Kareena: I loved them all quite a lot, but I’m partial to the “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” bit. The physical humor of that - the long pauses and the horrified facial expressions as Zoey tried to stop herself from singing - it proves that Levy is uniquely charismatic and has incredible comedic timing. That scene actually reminded me of many classic TV comediennes, like Lucille Ball and Marlo Thomas.

Luana: Jane singing to her father “How Do I Live?” by LeeAnn Rimes takes the cake. I also absolutely loved her singing “I’m Yours” to Max and “I Want You to Want Me” to Simon, but there’s just no competing with this heart-wrenching moment. Levy and Peter Gallagher did such an amazing job.

In addition to carrying all the musical numbers of this episode, Levy also carried the bulk of the emotional weight. She had the ability to make you laugh and cry at almost the same time. What was the hardest or most emotional of those moments for you to watch?

Bex: Zoey singing to her father at the end of the episode was one of the saddest moments. It packed an emotional punch, not just in the lyrics but in the delivery. The emotion came through strong in Levy’s rendition, and in addition to that seeing Zoey curled up next to her father while she sang the words was completely heartbreaking.

Dahne: The best and most emotional scene was Zoey confessing to her dad that she was scared to be around him after hearing that he only has a few weeks to live. She didn’t know what to say or how to act so she went with brutal honesty. It was such a raw and relatable scene. I felt for her impulse to run away from the inevitable loss. For a daughter who is as close to her dad as Zoey is, that’s unbearable. It all leads up to Zoey singing “How Do I Live?” and I was just done. The lyrics combined with her dad’s obvious pain for his daughter had tears welling in my eyes, and I rarely cry at TV. I love how he cupped her face and then held her, even if it was only in her head. The whole scene made me need to talk to my own dad and tell him how much I love him. That’s powerful TV. The slow pan on Zoey’s face and her deep sigh was the perfect way to close out the episode.

Donna: Again, Levy brought me to tears with her heartfelt ballad to her father. Everything she fears she put into this love song to him. Kudos to Gallagher for the tender way he held his daughter’s face as she was pouring out her heart to him. Levy and Gallagher have a beautiful familial chemistry and their scenes together are often episode highlights for me because of their simplicity and pure, honest emotion.

Ellys: Quite often when Zoey gets sucked into a live performance, her reactions before she loses control or discovers she was out of control are very funny. The performances themselves are mortifying or heartbreaking, knowing that Zoey’s songs are coming from her bleeding heart. Levy doesn’t let us forget that, working in that undercurrent of distress.

Folie-lex: The final scene hands down. It was what her whole breakdown was building up to throughout the episode, and the payoff was 100% worth it. The emotion of her singing “How Do I Live?” was so raw I had tears in my eyes.

Kareena: The “How Do I Live?” scene, at the end. After an episode where Zoey was quite literally putting on a performance the whole time, it was so emotionally raw and real; absolutely heart-shattering.

Luana: My first thought is about the cringy moments at the office. I can deal with pain, but somehow, I find it a lot harder to watch someone doing something embarrassing, which is why I appreciated Max having her back so much. It would’ve all been so much worse without him. But, I can’t ignore the ending and given that there’s a limited amount of movements Gallagher is able to make, for the most part, the emotion in the last scene definitely falls on Levy. Her guilt over wanting to be away from her dad at that critical time, and being forced to face the entirety of her pain even though she’s not ready for it, not after being in denial for so long. Everything was so clear on Zoey’s face, and singing when your voice is breaking is not an easy thing either, so I can’t help to be in awe of Levy here.

Were you familiar with Jane Levy’s work before Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist? If so, what is it that she brings to the role of Zoey that makes the character so exceptional? If not, what is it that you find in her performances that makes her a stand-out performer?

Bex: I watched Suburgatory during its run, and it was because of her role as Tessa in that show that I watched the pilot of Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist. Like with Tessa, Levy brings a light to a character in an unknown and difficult, different situation. In Suburgatory it was the move from the familiarity of the city to the suburbs, and in Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist it’s not only her new powers but watching the decline of her father and dealing with the reality that she is losing him.

Dahne: I have not seen any of Levy’s previous works, although I may have to check out some of them now. What I particularly enjoy about her performance as Zoey is how easily she moves from comedy to drama. She can make me laugh, especially with her facial expressions, but she also moves me with dramatic scenes. In addition, Levy has great chemistry with all the actors on the show, so her scenes are dynamite no matter which character she is interacting with. That’s a rare quality.

Donna: I was not familiar with Levy’s work before this show, but if there was ever a case of perfect casting this is it. She is exemplary in showcasing all of Zoey’s assets, her earnestness, her girl-next-door quality, her skills as a leader, her open heart, and her vulnerability. Aside for being a talented singer/dancer, Levy is also an incredible and versatile actress handling the light comedic and heavily dramatic scenes with ease.

Ellys: Sometimes a character and an actor meet, and they were just made for each other. Levy brings to this role traits that we’ve seen in other performances. She occasionally sang and danced on Suburgatory, for example, but she has clearly taken her craft to the next level as Zoey Clarke. In prior TV roles, at least ones that I have seen, she has played a quieter character, someone a bit more passive, and the roles seemed to water down her personality. Zoey Clarke is the first time I’ve seen Levy in a role as dynamic and full of life as Levy herself.

Folie-lex: She’s been on my radar since Suburgatory where I thought she was exceptional. So, I’ve made it a point to try and follow her work. What’s been great in having seen her in more things than just this, is being able to witness her range, as she brings something new and distinct to all her characters, even when they might be similar archetypes.

Kareena: I watched a lot of ABC in 2011, so I recognized her from Suburgatory trailers, but other than that, I had never seen anything with her in it before. Now that I’ve seen her as Zoey, I really feel like I’ve been missing out in some way - she is extraordinarily adept as an actress, and very good at balancing comedy and drama in a believable way.

Luana: I liked her on Suburgatory, but I had no idea she had such amazing acting chops.She still has some of that levity here but she’s also able to show on her face every emotion her character is feeling. I mean, she was able to make me cry in just the first episode. I have to say, I hadn’t expected to get attached to these characters so quickly, so definitely props to the writers, but a big part of that is Levy’s performance and how well she plays with every other amazing cast member on this show.

Zoey sings very heartfelt love songs to the two men in her life, (Max- Skylar Astin and Simon – John Clarence Stewart). Which do you think she belongs with? Which actor do you feel Levy has the most chemistry with and why?

Bex: End game feels like Zoey/Max. They’ve been friends a while, and where they’re at now has built slowly over time. It means it may take a little while for these two to take the next step, but their relationship seems more likely to have longevity. Zoey and Simon, on the other hand, is a spark that’s fired up quickly, and so is more likely to die out fast. The chemistry between Zoey and Simon has been more obvious as it hasn’t been portrayed as one-sided as Zoey and Max’s, but Zoey and Max have that slow-growing, sweet chemistry, which will grow with their friendship/bond.

Dahne: This is my least favorite part of the episode because even a good show can be tanked by a love triangle. Except for the singing, there is nothing new to this trite plot and I hope it ends soon. I especially hate that Simon is engaged so there’s two overlapping love triangles in play.

Donna: I’m really torn, both men bring out great qualities in Zoey. There’s such a strong friends to lovers’ vibe from Astin and Levy that makes you want to root for them as a couple. Then there’s the remarkable sensual quality to Levy’s scenes with Stewart that you feel for their unrequited feelings for one another that are just beginning to emerge. It is going to be interesting and I’m sure entertaining as we watch where these relationships go for the rest of the season.

Ellys: When was the last time a TV show gave us a love triangle as fantastic as this one? Rhetorical question. Levy has equal amounts of chemistry with both costars, although the chemistry feels very different in each case. There are unbelievable amounts of tenderness in the scenes between Zoey and Max, and Levy especially makes those interactions feel soft to show how much comfort and warmth Max brings into Zoey’s life. With Simon, we see another side of Zoey. The conversations she has with Simon about their fathers are brutal but healing in a way that only the two of them can understand. And Simon inspires a hunger in Zoey that Max does not. There is a world of difference between the happy cuddle she shares with Max on top of the ping pong table and the very intimate, sensual way she bares her desires and yearnings to Simon. But who’s to say that she couldn’t have with one what she has with the other?

Folie-lex: Not that I think Zoey as a character is ready for any kind of romantic relationship now, but I’m #TeamMax all the way. Although I prefer the character as a standalone character, I prefer the dynamic between Max and Zoey, and I think Astin and Levy’s chemistry and rapport is eons better.

Kareena: I was on the fence for a while, but recently declared myself proudly #TeamMax. They’re both so concerned for the others’ happiness above all else, which is absolutely ADORABLE. I think chemistry is the reason why I had such a hard time deciding, though - Levy has a lot of natural chemistry with pretty much everyone, but especially Astin and Stewart.

Luana: I’ve been in love with Astin since he showed up on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, I thought no one could replace Santino Fontana, but he made me fall for him so fast I almost forgot. Also, he has such great charisma, especially for the amazing musical numbers he’s been giving us. Max is endgame for me, he’s just so sweet and so perfect for Zoey. That said, and in hopes that we get many seasons of this show, I think Zoey needs to explore whatever’s going on with Simon first. Levy and Stewart have such chemistry that when they’re on screen together I feel like my hair could be on fire and I wouldn’t notice.

If you were to describe the show and Jane Levy’s performance as Zoey in this episode to someone who has never seen the show, what would you say and how would you convince them to give this unique show a try?

Bex: Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist is a charming, whimsical journey through heartbreak, loss, love, figuring out who you are, and this life in general. It’s sweet, and sad. It’s fun - but has also made me cry more than any TV show recently.

Dahne: Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist is unlike any other show on TV. Yes, it has musical numbers, but it also has a great balance between comedy and drama. This episode is a perfect example. Zoey trying desperately not to sing about seeing Joan and Leif kiss in the previous episode was floor-rolling funny. Levy uses her whole body to protest what’s happening to her, only to end with a show-stopping finale complete with jazz hands. Joan (Lauren Graham)’s reaction is priceless. I’m not a Jim Carey fan but it is clear why they referenced Liar, Liar in the beginning. I haven’t laughed this hard in ages. To go from all-out farce to the depths of emotion at the end takes tremendous talent and Levy is perfect in the role. She’s got a face that oozes empathy and in return, when Zoey is facing a whirlwind of emotions, the audience empathizes with her.

Donna: In a TV world filled with drama, comedy, and action staples Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist is a touching and heart-warming ray of sunshine. Don’t let fact that each episode has wonderful musical numbers turn you off, they are so beautifully woven into the fabric of the story you are hooked from the first time you watch. Levy is finally getting her star turn and proving it in every episode. And besides, how could you not love a show that lets Lauren Graham occasionally sing and dance?

Ellys: I can only compare Levy’s performance and how it moves me to the time I took my first carousel ride the same day I visited my first candy shop. The swirl of butterflies in my stomach was incredible; it was the first time I realized that adrenaline could come from joy. Levy brings hopefulness to the darkest and brightest moments of Zoey’s life, and her exuberant performance gives Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist its music.

Folie-lex: I would literally just say: “Simply put: Phenomenal. I can’t find the words to describe it in any way that would do it justice. Just watch and you’ll see why I’m stunned and why you should give this little gem a chance.”

Kareena: I would start by letting them know that as bonkers as the premise sounds, this really isn’t a gimmick show: there’s a lot of heart behind it. I think this episode is a great microcosm of everything that makes this show work on a whole; Levy’s performance being first and foremost on that list.

Luana: I, myself, thought that the musical aspect would turn me off of this show, but every song has a meaning, a mystery to figure out, a wonderful (sometimes heartbreaking) story behind it, and performers that are all such a joy to watch. This was a pleasant surprise for me and I’m sure it would be the same for others. There’s also something to be said for so many of the SpoilerTV staff agreeing so wholeheartedly that she deserved to be our Performer of the Month, so there’s that, too.

This episode leads to a heartbreaking scene with Zoey's father. Of the many scenes in this episode that Levy shares with other cast members, which were your favorites and why?

Bex: In this episode, and others, my favorite scenes tend to be ones Levy shares with Zoey’s family. These scenes tend to be the stronger scenes of the episodes, and, emotionally, hit a little harder.

Dahne: The ending scene between Zoey and her dad is by far my favorite scene in the episode, but I loved many others too. Right before Zoey goes to talk to her dad, she breaks down and admits what’s happening to Max. Even though they are fighting and even though Max is hurt, they have so much history that Max can’t leave his friend to grieve alone. His “you can do it” speech was exactly what Zoey needed to hear and a powerful moment to watch. Levy and Astin do a great job, even though in half of the scene, Zoey has her back to Max. Joan and Zoey are another highlight of the episode. In fact, their boss and mentee relationship are perfect throughout the entire show. I love how Joan reacts to both of Zoey’s musical breakdowns here. The biggest interaction surprise to me though was a little moment. I really respected how Zoey handled Tobin in the episode. He clearly messed up, but she also acknowledged how hard he worked to fix his mistakes. She proved to be a great boss to him at the same time her own world was falling apart.

Donna: I’ve already mentioned that I love the chemistry between Levy and Gallagher as father and daughter, however, I do have another favorite. I’m a huge Lauren Graham fan and watching her and Levy in their scenes together as Joan and Zoey are a delight.

Ellys: There’s no way to emotionally exceed the scene between Mitch and Zoey, but the one that precedes it with Zoey telling Max the truth is also impactful. When Levy silently points back at Max in response to his comment about no one hating her, with a broken heart showing in her eyes, I had to blink away my own tears.

Folie-lex: I mean the scene with her dad, in the end, is definitely the stand-out. The accumulation of her avoiding her feelings all episode and letting it all out, in the end, was just the right pay off and in the hands of a lesser actor may have not landed the execution as well. But, if I’m to pick another one besides that, I must go with the fight she and Max have in the bathroom. As Zoey tries to defend her confusion Max states his case once and for all, as he feels he is being strung along a little a bit and that Zoey might be deflecting more than she’s willing to admit. He’s a little pushy and harsh, but I also think he was being honest enough about things that Zoey needed to both hear and face, seeing that she herself admits she didn’t know she had those feelings until she sang them.

Kareena: Again, that scene with Mitch got me good, but I also really loved all her interactions with Max in this episode. Astin and Levy play off each other extremely well in every scene they’re in together - it really feels like Zoey and Max have been best friends for a long time, and that’s one of the hardest dynamics to fake.

Luana: Honestly, the whole episode was amazing, from the beginning where she’s in shock and sings “Crazy”, to that final moment with her father. I must mention the two “heart songs”. First, Jane singing to Max, that scene was not only wonderful and sweet, but Astin definitely gave it his all with his facial expression, he’s clearly all in with her and for her, which is why it breaks his heart so much when he realizes she’s not and they have that argument in the bathroom. And second, Zoey singing to Simon; it started so awkwardly but it got so steamy so fast, not everyone can go from zero to sixty that seamlessly, Levy and Stewart both deserve massive props here.

What are your final thoughts on her winning this recognition?

Bex: N/R

Dahne: I think it is often hard for new shows to be noticed, especially when they premiere midseason. For Levy to earn this award so early is a testament to how perfectly she has inhabited the character of Zoey and made it her own. I don’t see this show working with anyone else. It’s a challenging but well-crafted role and it takes an actress who has charisma yet is unafraid to show vulnerability. Levy ran the gamut of emotions in this episode and deserves all the praise she gets here. If you haven’t tried this amazing show, you should.

Donna: I become more and more impressed with the show with each successive episode. This particular episode was a definite showcase for Levy. She’s had a very big burden on her shoulders to sell this premise and has carried it well. The show is imaginative, creative, heart-warming and entertaining. I would be remiss in talking about how wonderful Levy is in the dance numbers if I did not mention the award-worthy and creative choreography from Mandy Moore in each episode.

Ellys: In this feature, each month we get to recognize remarkable artists who remind us why we love television, and we try to find words that are a fitting translation of a performance’s greatness. When you discover something as fearless and fun and wholehearted as Levy’s Zoey Clarke, you go crazy for it.

Folie-lex:When one has to carry a demanding in every respect episode like this, and do it as well as she did, a small little recognition like this is the least we the fans can offer her.

Kareena: Well-deserved! I think a lot of people underestimated this show; it has quickly shifted from just a nice way to spend my Sunday evening to a must-watch every week. As I said, I think a lot of that is due to Levy’s performance, and it needs to be mentioned that while this episode was certainly a great showcase of her full range, she’s been delivering that same level of commitment and quality in every episode.

Luana: Levy has been killing it from episode one, but this episode was so special. This time, her powers suddenly turn on her to let her know she needs to stop avoiding her feelings, and it leads to so much chaos. I don’t think anyone would be comfortable with their most inner feelings being so exposed for everyone to see, especially in such a flashy way. Levy was able to make us feel the cringe when needed, the shock, the denial, her concerns at work, her doubts about the man she wants to be with, and ultimately the pain of knowing she will be losing her father soon and she can’t do anything about it. Levy was able to give everything to every single moment, and not every performer is this versatile which is why I’m so happy she’s getting this very well-deserved article.

Each day more and more fans are discovering and falling in love with Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist thanks in large part to the charm and versatility of it’s star Jane Levy. It was all on her to deliver in this emotional episode and she expertly rose to the occasion. The premise of the show would not work in the hands of a less appealing or talented star, which is why Jane Levy was deservedly chosen SpoilerTV’s Staff Choice Performer of the Month for March. This article covers but a small part of her stellar performance.

Please use the comments to discuss all your favorite parts of Jane Levy’s performance in Zoey's Extraordinary Glitch.

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