UP WHERE SHE BELONGS
Despite being over forty years old, An Officer and Gentleman remains one of my favourite films. It’s one of the few films I saw more than once at the cinema and although I would happily watch it again, there’s a new version of this 1982 classic that I’m hoping to see instead: An Officer and a Gentleman the Musical.
Although she wasn’t even born when the film was first released, Georgia Lennon is excited to be playing the lead female role of Paula Pokrifki.
“The day I got the audition through for this job… the first thing that I did was hunt to find the film online. I sat and watched it one night in bed and I remember thinking ‘I would kill to be that girl at the end who gets swept up off her feet’ – and here we are!”
Georgia also saw something of herself in the role originally played by American actor, Debra Winger.
“I love everything that she stands for. She’s such a strong woman and that’s central to what I want to bring to the role… that girl power. She’s got that little bit of feistiness which I think is really brilliant.”
Georgia is also looking forward to developing Paula’s friendship with Lynette (played by Sinead Long), both on stage and off.
“I love her relationship with Lynette. The friendship that those two share is so wonderful and it’s so much fun to play alongside someone else who will ultimately become your friend. I think that’s really special.”
The other major roles are played by Luke Baker (Zack Mayo), Jamal Crawford (Gunnery Sergeant Emil Foley) and Paul French (Sid Worley).
The UK tour of An Officer and a Gentleman the Musical begins on 23rd February and runs right through until 9th November. It invites you into a world where the power of music will carry you through the highs and lows of this extraordinary love story.
“I really do think there’s something for everyone,” says Georgia, referring to the music. “It’s all those 80’s bangers! One of my favourites is ‘Alone’by Heart. It’s such a massive number but there’s so many different ones. Even for younger generations… they’ll recognise all of the songs.”
They’ll certainly recognise ‘Up Where We Belong’, the hugely successful song written and recorded especially for the film in 1982. Georgia, however, admits to favouring a different kind of music.
“I have so much passion for country music and being able to sing country music around the country for a year was so amazing.”
She’s talking about her role as Marie Osmond in The Osmonds: A New Musical.
“I had such a blast doing that. The show was brilliant and the cast were the most beautiful group of people ever. We had so much fun.”
Although she cites this as her favourite role so far, her other stage roles have been equally memorable.
“I played Princess Apricot in Jack and the Beanstalk at the Grand Opera House in Belfast. I was still at college but that was my professional debut. I ended up going back to Belfast the following year to play Belle in Beauty and the Beast. Belfast feels like a second home to me now because I’ve spent so much time there.”
Unfortunately for Georgia, she graduated in 2020 at the height of the Covid pandemic but she doesn’t dwell on that frustration.
“After I graduated, the first job I did post-pandemic was Lady Chatterley in Lady Chatterley’s Loverat the Shaftesbury Theatre in the West End. It was a lovely start… a beautiful job.”
Being no stranger to the stage, you would think that, perhaps, news of another role would be nothing to sing and dance about. Georgia thinks otherwise.
“Nothing will ever beat that feeling. Knowing that you’ve landed a role that you’ve put your heart and soul into… that feeling of being on stage every night, the lights beaming down on your face, having an audience there in front of you… the joy of knowing that you’re making other people happy, it’s just such a special thing. I can honesty say that I would say the same at 80 years old! I would never get sick of it.”
It certainly sounds as if Georgia has found her vocation. Although, from what she tells me, that was never in doubt.
“One of my earliest memories… I was at the London Palladium with my mum watching The Sound of Music. All of the kids marched onto the stage… I turned to my mum and said ‘that’s what I want to do’.”
Originally from Hartlepool, Georgia started dancing at the age of three. She’s played the piano since the age of eight and started singing lessons when she was ten years old.
“I’ve danced, sang and acted my whole life. I started training in opera and musical theatre until I moved down to London when I was 18. Then I trained at Laine Theatre Arts, that’s where I did my vocational training. Theatre has always been a burning ambition of mine. I’ve never really thought about doing anything else.”
She jokes that no-one else in her family has a musical bone in their body, but she’s serious when she talks about the opportunities available to youngsters.
“I took as many opportunities as I could. It’s so important that those opportunities remain in terms of music and performing arts. They are so character building and can shape children from a young age. And I saw lots of live theatre when it was younger, that’s important as well.”
Having the support of her family has been, and always will be, important to Georgia. That said, her various theatre families also mean the world to the 24-year-old performer.
“You end up with this massive extended family every time you do a show, especially when you’re on tour. It becomes this little bubble where you spend all day, every day with everyone. You make yourselves so vulnerable with each other in order to get the best out of the narrative and the emotions of the show… it’s just inevitable that you become this unit. Some of my best friends in the world I’ve made through theatre jobs.”
But it’s not just friendship, it’s education.
“You learn so much from them… which is no nice. Some of them are West End veterans and they’ll give you that one tiny snippet of information that will always stick with you. It’s really special.”
So, aside from making new friends and gaining yet another extended family, what is she most excited about when it comes to recreating this timeless classic?
“This is probably my biggest role to date. I’m looking forward to getting my teeth into something new. It’s so iconic. Plus, the songs are massive and I just love a vocal challenge!”
An Officer and a Gentleman the Musical is at Glasgow King’s Theatre from 5th to 9th March and Georgia has fond memories of this particular venue.
“My gran’s closest theatre is Glasgow King’s… I grew up seeing so many pantos there at Christmas. To now be on the other side of that… to be on the stage, that’s really special.”
The stage is definitely where Georgia belongs. Although she’s the first to admit, there’s always something new to learn.
“Every role teaches you so much about yourself and I just can’t want to find out all of those things… and develop all of those new connections. I just think it’s a beautiful story and I can’t wait to work that one out on stage.” For tickets visit: www.officerandagentlemanthemusical.com