By - Jessica Wu -
I caught up with Danielle Jordan on a busy Monday afternoon as she zipped between securing a venue for the Gypsy’s List launch party (her newest project and where you’re probably reading this article), auditions, and her twice-weekly acting class with Matthew Corozine Studios. Carrying a darling backpack, she joined me at Green Symphony on 43rd street for a quick snack and some reminiscing.
I found out that Danielle began acting very early on – at the tender age of 1 ½ when she made her Tuscaloosa, Alabama Community Theatre debut as the courtroom baby in Inherit The Wind. Clearly a natural performer (rumor is she stole the scene by exuberantly clapping along), Danielle’s mother Celia went on to enroll her in all manner of performance opportunities… “Since I was 3, I’d always danced and did ballet – my Mom put me in everything. I genuinely liked what I was doing and did all of it enthusiastically – community theatre, cheerleading, gymnastics, baton twirling... It got to the point where it was a choice between becoming an Olympic gymnast or doing everything else, and I chose everything else”.
Unlike the vast majority of eager young actors from the growing number of Musical Theatre training programs who venture to New York City to strike it big on Broadway, Danielle didn’t have any formal training before she started working professionally. While most aspiring performers her age were living in dorms at Michigan or CCM, Danielle was cutting her teeth at theme parks and on cruise ships. She mused, “I really did follow the rule, ‘Fake it ‘til you make it’ and I subscribed to my Mom’s advice regarding music, which was ‘Just sing loud’. I really didn’t have any professional training until I’d been working for 8 years. I do think I had had some training on the job, though – at Busch Gardens for example, working with college students. I learned a lot from them about the life of a performer.” She also vividly remembers the sage advice of Joe Tremaine from the dance competitions she attended in middle school. “He would say, ‘You’re always on.’ The second you leave your door, you’re auditioning – you never know who you’ll run into on the subway or who you’ll ride the elevator with. You are your job. You are your instrument.”
“I was able to work consistently for 8 years and then for another year when I moved to New York. Then when I got my Equity card I went a year and a half with no work and that was difficult.” During that year and a half, though, Danielle maintains she grew to appreciate and, I daresay, love auditioning. “I saw it as a chance to do what it is I love to do – even if it was only for that hour in a dance call or 30 seconds auditioning a song. I was performing, and so what if it was only for an audition? It made me happy.”
When I brought up the old, woe-is-me, showbiz adage that we live a difficult life, Danielle very proactively stopped me in my tracks. “I always rejected the idea of a starving actor. Don’t be scared of it – you don’t have to starve to have this career and I believe you can always find ways to make it work for you.”
The Broadway Debut
When we got to the subject of her Broadway Debut, Danielle’s eyes lit up. “It was unbelievable.” As she recounted her road to Follies on Broadway, I couldn’t help but think it had all the making of a musical theatre urban legend. After initially being cut from the first chorus dancer call, “Where they were looking for the showgirls – which I am not.” Danielle remembered several friends getting cast. “I was so excited for them – I didn’t know the show, but I did know it was going to be a big deal, and that Bernadette Peters was going to be in it. Not growing up seeing her on Broadway, what I knew her from was the movie of Annie and I thought she was so cute and fun, I wished that I could be that sexy girl like she was.”
Several months later they posted another open call. “The thing I remember reading for that call was that Warren Carlyle was still the choreographer and that I’ve always loved his work. He really dances his dancers and I love that about him. I looked at the breakdown again and saw that they were still looking for the 5’8 and over showgirls but also an ensemble, which in my mind I thought “Maybe there’s ‘townspeople’ in the show.” So, having no clue what I was auditioning for or going into, I told myself “Even though you got cut before, you still love doing Warren’s stuff and there’s an ensemble so maybe you have a chance of being a townsperson. And, at the end of the day, you love dancing his choreography so just go and have fun.”
And so, she did! ”I made it through the dance cuts, quickly sang 16 bars and then flew to Michigan to dance in a magic show because, you know, a gig is a gig. It was called Carnival of Wonders, choreographed by the wonderful, Peggy Hickey.
While she was out of town, Danielle couldn’t help but be disappointed – even though she’d made it to the end of that first Follies audition, she knew she was going to miss out on both the invited call and the final callbacks. “On a whim, on my way to the airport to fly to the gig, I had updated my phone and was unable to receive my messages. A couple days passed and I received more voicemails but was still unable to take the time to retrieve them – Follies was the furthest thing from my mind because I knew I had missed all the callbacks.”
Sunday came along and after the Magic show had wrapped, she finally had a chance to access her voicemails and received a message she’ll never forget. “It was from Laura Stanzyck Casting calling to say they’d like to offer me an ensemble role in the Kennedy Center Production of Follies starring Bernadette Peters. I just burst into tears and couldn’t believe I got it – it was just amazing. At the time, I had no idea it was going to go to Broadway – there was some buzz so I knew it could be a possibility, but it was a big enough deal just to be a part of this show! The cast was amazing to work with, some of the kindest, most giving performers ever, I felt like I was taking a master class in acting every night.”
What’s Happening Now?
After doing Follies on Broadway and several shows since, she’s still living the dream. And, of course, working on Gypsy’s List. “It’s something I always thought should exist for our community and I truly believe it’s about giving back, sharing information, talent, and education. It’s a virtual callboard or a virtual “person” in the business that knows everything. I believe everyone in the business should have access to this information.”
What’s In Your Future?
“My very first time ever speaking or singing a solo onstage actually came when I went on for my understudy track on Broadway as Young Sally in Follies. To get to play a principal role, to get to play the younger version of Bernadette’s character – it was a dream come true.” Danielle recalls the most interesting part of the experience, was realizing that the greatest joy didn’t come from the fact it was on Broadway or any of the reasons she’d originally thought… “it came from knowing I’d put all the hard work into it, all the preparation, going through that tunnel, taking that leap, and coming out the other side successfully. It’s a feeling I’ll never forget.”
“So now, I’ve been bitten extra hard by the acting bug. I’ve always said I wanted to do more acting as opposed to just dancing and singing. I started taking acting classes – I wanted to start at the beginning and with the basics so I took an Intro to Acting Class at Michael Howard Studios. I’ve also now recently discovered the Meisner technique with Matthew Corozine Studios - I truly love it and it’s completely changed how I approach acting. It really gives me this joy.”
The next big dream is Film, TV, and more Broadway. But if there’s anything I know about Danielle after years of friendship, it’s that she’s got even bigger plans. “A friend of mine puts it in a great way – that some people have one big dream and some people choose to be like a peacock with many brightly colored feathers. I want to have my acting feather, my Gypsy’s List feather, my family feather, my children’s book feather, my design company feather and my charity feather. I want to have a full life and I’m really interested in giving back.”
And isn’t that the spirit of a true Gypsy?