Stepping into Julie Andrews or Audrey Hepburn's shoes might make anyone quake in their boots, but not New York-based actress Aurora Florence.
The 24-year-old plays the well-loved role of Eliza Doolittle in the touring production of My Fair Lady, which opened on Tuesday at Marina Bay Sands' MasterCard Theatre and runs till March 2.
"One of the things that I loved about Julie Andrews and Audrey Hepburn is that they brought so much of who they were to the role. That's part of what makes it so endearing," says Florence at a media preview yesterday. "I find ways to imagine how I would feel if I was in that situation."
Andrews played the Cockney flower girl-turned- lady when the musical, based on George Bernard Shaw's 1912 play Pygmalion, first opened on Broadway in 1956. And Hepburn immortalised Eliza on film in the 1964 screen adaptation.
The production in Singapore, directed by Jeffrey B. Moss, features a cast of 20 from the United States.
Florence auditioned for the role of Eliza in May 2011, a month before she graduated with a musical theatre degree from Brigham Young University. Her husband, Jeffrey Dickamore, had also been in the 2012 US tour of the musical, acting as the chauffeur.
Asked if her husband is anything like Eliza's mentor and ultimately love interest, Professor Higgins, Florence says with a laugh: "He's a passionate person and cares a lot about what he does. But he's a little bit kinder than Henry is."
Professor Higgins is played here by theatre actor Chris Carsten. "We have a lot of trust in each other on stage," says Florence on her relationship with him. "That's a huge part of having chemistry with a person, it's about trusting that you can make a choice or be vulnerable and they'll be there to support you."
Carsten, 51, says: "Aurora is a very instinctive actress. If you make a choice and give something, she reacts to that choice and gives it back."
"It's a tremendous honour to play this role, but I don't approach this thinking that I'm going to be Rex Harrison," adds the actor, referring to the English stage and screen actor who played the role of Higgins on Broadway and took home an Oscar for Best Actor for reprising it in the film.
Carsten previously played Captain Hook in a US tour of the musical Peter Pan in 2000; and Thomas Andrews in the touring production of Titanic, the musical, in 2002. He is expecting his third child with his wife of almost 14 years, actress Amalie Larsen.
Meanwhile, Florence, who grew up in California, says learning the Cockney accent for the role was not difficult. She had always played around with accents at home with her family as a girl and she studied dialects and phonetics in college.
She also has a music career as a co-founder of the band Imagine Dragons (she was on piano, violin and backing vocals for them in 2008). She has released an EP, It's Wonderful, which came out last year.
Eliza's determination to be seen for who she is is something that has chimed with the actress-singer. "I really came to like that a lot," says Florence.
"I think all of us have moments when we feel like we are not being valued for who we are or we're being judged on how we look, or something stupid we may have said and I relate to that. I want people to see me for who I am and value me for who I am," she adds.
MY FAIR LADY
Where: Marina Bay Sands' MasterCard Theatre
When: Until March 2, 8pm (Tuesdays to Fridays); 2 and 8pm (Saturdays and Sundays), no shows on Mondays)
Admission: $95 (excludes $3 booking fee) from Marina Bay Sands Box offices (go to www.MarinaBay-Sands.com/Ticketing or call 6688-8826) and Sistic (go to sistic.com.sg or call 6348-5555)
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.