Jazmin Gorsline is thrilled to be playing the lead in 'My Fair lady' so close to home
When Jazmin Gorsline steps onto the stage as Eliza Doolittle in the Broadway Rose production of "My Fair Lady" this summer, there will be lots of familiar faces in the audience if she could only see them in the darkness.
Although Gorsline has been based in New York City for about 10 years, she is a Northwest native through and through, and therefore has many friends and family members in the area anxious to see her starring turn.
And if some audience members are familiar to her, so is the role: This is the fourth time that Gorsline has played Eliza Doolittle, a part she loves and was eager to reprise.
"Every time I played the role, I never knew if I would be able to play it again," she said. "I have played a few roles more than once and done shows like 'Oklahoma' and 'The Fantasticks' a few times, but this role is more rewarding than anything else that I have ever done. There is such a transition between the highs and lows, the emotions run from elation to despair, and Eliza is not the only one who changes.
"It's a perfect show - the script, the words, the music. It's such a beautiful show, I could do it the rest of my life and be happy. And each time I do it, the other actors and directors do it differently, so it is always interesting and I am learning from them.
"Once the play starts, it is like being shot out of a cannon - I think there is time for one bathroom break. Every time I'm off-stage, I'm getting into different wigs and costumes. The backstage maneuvers are as choreographed as the onstage show."
Gorsline was born not far away in Salem, but her family lived mostly in Alaska until she was in middle school, when they moved to Vancouver, Wash., and she graduated from Mountain View High School.
"I don't know what really started me on the path to a career in musical theatre," Gorsline said. "In Alaska, I made my parents drive me around to auditions and performances. Every summer, the Music Machine did a big production with lots of kids, which I loved doing.
"My dad was an artist and fell into doing commercials, and I did some with him, which was fun."
After high school, Gorsline spent one year at the University of Puget Sound before earning a degree in vocal performance from Linfield College; while there, she got roles in two Broadway Rose summer children's theater productions - "Hansel and Gretel" and "Sleeping Beauty" - and also performed at Lakewood Theatre in Lake Oswego.
Hoping to attend the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y., Gorsline flew there to audition for graduate school and took a detour to New York City to audition for Disney. "When I got to the Disney audition, it was so crowded that I just left and went to see my first Broadway show instead," she said. "I went to Eastman School, where I earned a master's degree in vocal performance and literature with an emphasis on opera.
"While there, I started to do auditions for musical theater in New York, which was a six-hour drive away, and it was so easy compared to opera! I started getting called back for things like 'Phantom of the Opera' and the musical 'Titanic' on Broadway, and I began to think I could do it for a career. After I got my degree, the next step seemed to be New York."
But first Gorsline made a fateful trip back to Oregon to perform at Lakewood, "where I met a family who had a great apartment in New York with a great deal," she said. "I moved there to live but ended up taking a lot of jobs out of town, in Florida especially and also Georgia and Texas, so I got a lot of experience."
Gorsline also performed at Tokyo Disney Sea before coming back to the U.S., where "I started doing bigger things, like performing at the Kennedy Center," she said.
Gorsline played the role of Eliza Doolittle in "My Fair Lady" in two different productions that each lasted for a couple of months, and she was the understudy for Eliza in the Cameron Mackintosh national tour, performing the role several times during her year on the road.
The closest Gorsline got to Portland on the tour was Seattle, but she learned a lot from the professional performers in the troupe, such as Marni Nixon and Sally Ann Howes, while playing various roles in the ensemble.
"I was lucky in that I had advance notice the first time I played Eliza on the tour because the British actress in the role was going on vacation, and after that, it was easy," Gorsline said.
Gorsline has carved out a successful career for herself in New York ("but not in the same apartment!"); however, she was only too happy to reconnect with Broadway Rose co-founders, Sharon Maroney, who is the producing artistic director, and Dan Murphy, the general manager, when they came to New York in 2008 to hold auditions for shows, including "Les Misérables."
"I was on the 'My Fair Lady' tour, and Sharon called to say they weren't looking for someone to play Cosette but could I come and sing for the director?" Gorsline said. "There wasn't any pressure because I didn't think it was really an audition, which was great!"
But Gorsline was offered the role of Cosette, which she happily accepted.
Flash forward to March 2013, when Gorsline was performing in "Fiddler on the Roof" in Chicago and couldn't attend the Broadway Rose auditions in Tigard, but she had to go to New York for a couple of other auditions and also did one for "My Fair Lady."
"I was up for a few other things when Sharon called to say I got the role, and I was really excited," said Gorsline, whose family still lives in this area. "My family usually comes to see me in productions, but this time it will be easy, and I know that Broadway Rose does really great work."
The week before coming to Tigard to start rehearsals in early July, Gorsline said, "Sharon is directing 'My Fair Lady,' and I love her as a person, so I'm really looking forward to working with her. She is so passionate about theater and so smart.
"And I am excited about the other people in the cast. I performed with Kevin Connell, who plays Henry Higgins, in 'The Mikado,' so I already know how wonderful he will be."
As for her unusual first name, Gorsline said her parents named her Jazmin "because they were hippies, and they also thought it should be spelled just the way it sounded to be sure I could spell it!"
She added, "When I was a child actor in Alaska, we had like 500 head shots printed but they misspelled my name as Jasmine. I've got a picture of it on my Facebook page, so people probably think I changed my name to Jazmin professionally."
In the meantime, she was anxiously waiting to fly to Portland: "I can't wait to meet the cast, see Dan and Sharon and be back at Broadway Rose again, and to get the chance to share in this incredible show," she said.