The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain. The iconic phrase uttered over and over again by Eliza Doolittle resonates in the hearts of those who know her story: to improve her language and become a lady in high society. But there are some who prefer her just the way she is.
Jordan Donica makes his Lincoln Center Theater debut as Freddy Eynsford-Hill, a member of the aristocratic society who becomes entranced by Eliza upon meeting her at Ascot. Before his role in Lerner & Loewe’s My Fair Lady, he held the role of Raoul in Broadway’s Phantom of the Opera as well as Marquis de Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson in the national tour of Hamilton. For Donica, performing in yet another legendary show is the crème de la crème.
“I grew up a shy kid in Indiana and I really learned to speak by singing,” said Donica of his early love of performing. “I played sports and never thought of performing as a thing one person could do, but I asked my mom if I could be in the local holiday production, and that started my days in theatre.”
When he was 9-and-a-half, Donica saw a touring production of Phantom of the Opera. He recalls hearing the Phantom’s voice over the audience before he is seen and the effect it had on Donica.
“I leaned over and told my cousin that I would be that one day. I wanted to have that effect on people with just my voice,” he said, adding that from that moment on, his mother enrolled him in voice lessons. “I first came to New York with my aunt when I was 11 and saw Rent, which was my first Broadway show. After that I knew that this is where I need to be.”
Donica’s acting portfolio is impressive, especially having recently starred in legendary shows. Every day, he learns something new and hasn’t really “stopped to smell the roses,” reflecting on his time in theatre.
“My favorite part about all of this is that I have had the opportunity to work with arguably three of the best directors of the last century,” he said of the knowledge he gleaned from Hal Prince, who directs Phantom of the Opera. “He is collaborative director and was very much interested in what myself and Ali Ewoldt could bring to these characters. I kept a journal every time I met with him of things he said.”
Coming from the physicality of Hamilton, Donica said he considers himself an actor first, figuring out what the style of each piece is before setting the rest of the groundwork. He noted the antithesis of that in My Fair Lady, which although is three hours in length, does not require his character to be on stage the entire time.
“I am so thankful to work with Bart, he’s a genius as well,” said Donica, who has learned about simplicity and honesty through his role of Freddy. “Freddy is a very selfless guy. He sees something in Eliza and she unlocks in him a potential for something beyond what he was born into, a stuffy, upper class society. He doesn’t quite fit into that and meets this woman who he is willing to give up everything for just to be in her presence. I really admire that about him.”
Outside of 27A Wimpole Street, where Eliza, Henry Higgins and Colonel Pickering reside, Freddy sings “On The Street Where You Live,” an ode to Eliza. As for adopting an English accent for both dialogue and song, Donica was trained in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) when he was in college, studying different dialects. Speaking on the relevance of My Fair Lady (and the story of Pygmalion) in today’s world, Donica said it is apparent in myriad ways.
“You have the class angle and you can look at it from a gender equality angle. It’s never lost its relevancy because everything ebbs and flows over time and space given where we are as a country and as a world right,” said Donica of pieces like My Fair Lady that he believes are so necessary to show. “It’s about a woman trying to find her agency in the world and how can she better herself. My favorite line is ‘the difference between a lady and a flower girl is not how she behaves but how she is treated.’ I believe in that so much.”
My Fair Lady plays at The Vivian Beaumont Theater in the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts complex, located at 150 West 65th St., NYC. For tickets and showtimes, visit www.lct.org.