Entertainment

Georgia Lennon: From Lady Chatterley and the Grand Opera House panto with May McFettridge to An Officer and a Gentleman

Ahead of the musical version of An Officer and a Gentleman opening in Belfast, Gail Bell spoke to leading lady Georgia Lennon who can’t wait to step into the feisty shoes of Paula Pokrifki...

Georgia Lennon who can’t wait to step into the feisty shows of Paula Pokrifki.
Georgia Lennon can’t wait to step into the feisty shoes of An Officer and a Gentleman's Paula Pokrifki

It’s all about girl power for actress Georgia Lennon who takes the lead role in An Officer and a Gentleman which reaches Belfast next month.

The London-based star of Lady Chatterley’s Lover and The Osmonds (Marie) is excited to be playing fiery Paula Pokrifki opposite Luke Baker’s Zak when the show – based on the iconic 80s movie of the same name – opens in Birmingham at the end of February.

Third on an extended tour list is the Grand Opera House and Lennon is practically buzzing about coming back to the city where she performed alongside John Linehan (aka May McFettridge) and Paddy Jenkins in panto.

“Belfast feels like a home away from home for me,” gushes the Hartlepool-born actress who trained at the prestigious Laine Theatre Arts college in Epsom, Surrey. “I had the best time working at the Grand Opera House for a couple of Christmas productions in 2018 and 2019.

Paddy Jenkins, as Mr Potts, Georgia Lennon, as Belle, Ben Richards, who will play the role of the Beast and May McFettridge, as Mrs Potts Picture Matt Mackey / Press Eye.
Paddy Jenkins, as Mr Potts, Georgia Lennon, as Belle, Ben Richards, who will play the role of the Beast and May McFettridge, as Mrs Potts (Matt Mackey / Press Eye)

“I got on so well with the John and Paddy who were both so wonderful to me and just took me under their wing. Then I was back again for The Osmonds in 2022 which was another special time. Now, I can’t wait to return with An Officer and a Gentleman.”

The show represents another ‘first’ for the talented 24-year-old who wowed audiences with her turn as Lady Chatterley in the world premiere of the stage version of DH Lawrence’s literary classic. The show ran at the Shaftesbury Theatre in London’s West End – her first professional job after leaving college.

LtoR Georgia Lennon & Sinead Long in rehearsals for An Officer and a Gentleman, credit Marc Brenner
Georgia Lennon, pictured left, and Sinead Long in rehearsals for An Officer and a Gentleman (Marc Brenner)

An impassioned tale of female agency and sexual desire, the novel was denounced as scandalous when first published openly in the UK in 1960. Lennon, who had never read the book before her audition, embraced the challenge of bringing it all to the stage and making the role her own.



“It was a brand new show and no-one had sung those songs before,” she says. “No-one had seen that piece of writing [for stage], so I was very fortunate to play that part. It was very challenging because that character has so many different emotional levels. To understand that, of course, I had to go and read the book.”

Another piece of “vital research” was needed for this latest role as factory worker, Paula, also desperate to escape her ‘normal’ life - ideally, with naval officer-in-the-making, Zack Mayo (famously portrayed on screen by Richard Gere).

I had the best time in Belfast

“Of course, everybody talks about this film, An Officer and a Gentleman, and I had always heard of it,” she says, “but when I got the audition through, that was my first port of call. I was like, ‘I have to actually watch this before I go in the room for it, otherwise I’m not going to have a clue…’

“It was another piece of imperative research – I just jumped into that film and watched Paula get swept off her feet. The stage show has a few little changes, but my character definitely gets swept off her feet at the end, too.”

So, is she a romantic at heart, in real life? “Yes, I am not involved with anyone at the moment, but I think I definitely am a romantic. I love ‘love’ – and in An Officer and a Gentleman I think everyone can relate to that moment at the end; the one that makes your heart give a little leap.”

Georgia Lennon who can’t wait to step into the feisty shows of Paula Pokrifki.
Georgia Lennon says she can’t wait to step into the feisty shoes of An Officer and a Gentleman's Paula Pokrifki

The appeal of the role is also down to “some amazing songs” – Alone by American rock band Heart is one of her favourites – as well as getting into the character of Paula.

“Vocally, it’s quite demanding – it’s a really, really big sing – but, it’s a new thing for me to get my teeth into,” says Lennon. “And the thing I like most about the character is the absolute ‘girl power’ that Paula displays. I love the strength she has as a character; I can’t wait to dive into that. She’s an independent woman who’s a bit feisty and can stand up for herself.”

LtoR Melanie Masson & Georgia Lennon in rehearsals for An Officer and a Gentleman, credit Marc Brenner
Melanie Masson and Georgia Lennon, pictured right, in rehearsals for An Officer and a Gentleman (Marc Brenner)

Being independent is something she has always strived for herself, after moving from Hartlepool, where she was brought up, to London when she was 18.

“This is definitely a tough industry, but it has all I have ever wanted to do,” she says. “I remember going to the theatre with my mum to see The Sound of Music at The Palladium when I was very young and when all the von Trapp kids marched out on stage, I tapped her on the shoulder and said, ‘That’s what I want to do when I’m older’. I think I’ve always had that ambition and I never really had a plan B, if I’m honest.

“I attended drama, singing and dancing lessons from when I was three, piano from when I was eight... I did all of that and loved it. I always loved performing, whether in school plays or local amateur productions, but it is on a different level when you get to do it for a living. I still pinch myself that I get paid to do this job.”

One of her best loved roles to date has been playing Marie Osmond in the 2022 tour of new musical The Osmonds , created by Jay Osmond as a “sort of living autobiography” of the siblings from Utah who were “pushed into the spotlight” as children and went on to create smash hits, decade after decade.

Georgia Lennon in The Osmonds A New Musical, credit Pamela Raith
Georgia Lennon in The Osmonds musical as Marie Osmond (PAMELA RAITH)

Again, the young performing arts graduate wasn’t around when the Osmonds were actually making waves in the pop scene during the 1970s, but - again - she did her homework.

“It was certainly a great character change from Lady Chatterley,” she quips. “Marie is definitely a bit more wholesome. I had known songs like Puppy Love that Marie sang, but, really, it was the fact she is a country artist and the fact that I sing ‘country’ that helped me get that role. I got to listen to all of her country releases - I loved singing all of her songs.”

Lady Chatterley’s Lover photo call – London
Georgia Lennon as Lady Chatterley and Michael Pickering as Mellors in the musical of DH Lawrence's controversial book (Aaron Chown/PA)

She accepts she has been “really lucky” in her career so far, playing three legendary women – even if two of them are from the world of fiction.

“There is a lot of responsibility in getting it right,” she adds. " I am an ‘only’ child, but when I go on the road on tour, the company becomes my family and support network. And, often after a show, I can come back to my little cockapoo – sometimes he comes on tour with me. He has become a little bit of a theatre dog.”

An Officer and a Gentleman runs at the Grand Opera House, Belfast, from March 12-16. goh.co.uk

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