Georgia Brown (English singer)

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Georgia Brown
Georgia Brown Showtime 1968.jpg
Performing on CBS Television's Showtime, 1968
Born Lillian Claire Laizer Getel Klot
(1933-10-21)21 October 1933
East End of London, England
Died 5 July 1992(1992-07-05) (aged 58)
London, England
Occupation Singer, actress
Years active 1956–1992
Spouse(s) Gareth Wigan (1974-1981; divorced; 1 child)

Georgia Brown (21 October 1933 – 5 July 1992) was a British singer and actress.

Personal life[edit]

Georgia Brown was born and raised in Whitechapel, a district within East London, England. Her birth name was Lillian Claire Laizer Getel Klot and she was known as Lily. The daughter of Mark and Annie (née Kirshenbaum) Klot, Brown grew up in a large extended East European Jewish family. Her father worked in a textile factory and as a bookmaker. Brown attended the Central Foundation Grammar School. During the London Blitz, she was evacuated to Wales.

Career[edit]

During her first performing career incarnation as a nightclub singer, she adopted the professional name Georgia Brown with reference to two of her favourite repertoire items, "Sweet Georgia Brown" and "Georgia on My Mind". Brown was for a time a flatmate of singer Annie Ross with whom she formed half of a vocal quartet known as Lambert, Hendricks, Ross & Brown, but after a brief tenure Brown departed the quartet which became the famed trio Lambert, Hendricks & Ross. After an attempt at a recording career, with three overlooked singles released on Decca Records in 1955, Brown moved into musical theatre, an early credit being Bernard Delfont's Folies Bergeres at the Prince of Wales Theatre; her breakout role was playing Lucy in the 1956 West End revival of The Threepenny Opera at the Royal Court Theatre, a role she repeated the following year when she joined the cast of the highly successful off-Broadway production.

Brown's career role was that of Nancy in the musical, Oliver!, a role she created in the original 1960 London production. When Brown first came in to audition for the musical's author and composer, Lionel Bart, he recognized her as a childhood neighbor, and greeted her as "Lily Klot". Brown's subsequent audition caused Bart to award her the role of Nancy. Although Bart had conceived that role in hopes of pop singer Alma Cogan playing it, it was reported that after casting Brown as Nancy, Bart then composed the Oliver! numbers "As Long As He Needs Me" and "It's a Fine Life", songs written specifically with Brown in mind. Brown reprised the role of Nancy in the 1963 Broadway production of Oliver!, earning a Tony Award nomination for her performance, and it is her voice that is heard on both the original West End and Broadway cast recordings.

On 9 February 1964, Brown appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show with 18-year-old Davy Jones (pre-Monkees) recreating two scenes from the musical then showing on Broadway.[1] This happened to be the same evening that the Beatles were to make their premiere US appearance on the show.[2] The role of Nancy in the film version went to Brown's friend Shani Wallis.

After a stint in Bart's Maggie May in 1965, Brown concentrated on screen work for more than a decade. She appeared as a singer in A Study in Terror (1965), followed by a number of films, including The Fixer (1968), Lock Up Your Daughters (1969), The Raging Moon (1971, for which she was nominated for a BAFTA Award), Running Scared (1972), Nothing But the Night (1973), Tales That Witness Madness (1973), The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (1976) and The Bawdy Adventures of Tom Jones (1976). She also appeared in several television dramas, including the BBC's 1970 highly acclaimed adaptation of Jean-Paul Sartre's The Roads to Freedom, for which she also sang the theme song, "La route est dure". Brown also made a memorable one-off appearance as a Bloomsbury radical in a 1971 episode of Upstairs, Downstairs, portrayed music hall singer Marie Lloyd in the 1972 mini-series The Edwardians[3] and took the role of Mrs Peachum in a 1975 biographical drama, one of four about Benjamin Franklin, The Rebel.[4]

Despite her success in such roles, Brown was unhappy with the relative paucity of significant parts for women in television drama. She expressed her dissatisfaction to the BBC and was told to identify a series she would like to be in. Discussions followed between Brown and script editor Midge Mackenzie, and the pair devised the idea for a drama chronicling the struggle for women's suffrage in late 19th/early 20th century Britain. Brown enlisted the help of producer Verity Lambert and the three women got approval from the BBC. In the course of realising the project, Brown and her colleagues found that misogynist attitudes survived at the BBC and they had to remove from the scripts, written by male writers, a number of misconceptions and inaccuracies, referred to by Brown as 'the male point of view'.[5] The drama, Shoulder to Shoulder, was first broadcast in six parts in 1974.[6] Brown (and others) sang the theme song for the series, "The March of the Women", and she took the role of working class activist Annie Kenney, alongside Sian Phillips and Angela Down as Emmeline and Sylvia Pankhurst. The episode dealing most closely with Annie Kenney was written by Alan Plater, who had written the 1972 drama about Marie Lloyd (played by Brown) and her involvement in the 1907 music hall artistes' strike, in The Edwardians. Shoulder to Shoulder remains highly regarded as an attempt to convey an important episode both of feminist history and of Britain's history of dissent and civil disobedience.[7]

Brown returned to Broadway to join the cast of the long-running revue Side By Side By Sondheim in 1977. Two years later, she created the title role in Alan Jay Lerner and Burton Lane's unsuccessful musical Carmelina. She toured Britain in Georgia Brown and Friends, then brought the revue to New York for a limited run in 1982. Five years later, the Gilbert Becaud musical Roza, under the direction of Hal Prince, closed after only twelve performances, but her performance of Mrs. Peachum in the 1989 revival of The Threepenny Opera earned her another Tony nomination.

In the 1980s, Brown took the lead role of Dorothy Brock in Gower Champion's musical 42nd Street at Drury Lane, London. She can also be heard on the charity tribute CD Mack in Mabel in Concert (1988) in which she sings "Time Heals Everything". In her later years, Brown limited herself to concerts, cabaret appearances, and guest spots on television series such as Great Performances, Murder, She Wrote and Cheers, with Cheers probably affording Brown her highest US profile: she earned an Emmy Award nomination for her role as Carla Tortelli's spiritual adviser Madame Lazora in 1990, and she reprised the role in 1991. Brown also made two appearances in Star Trek: The Next Generation portraying Helena Rozhenko, Worf's adoptive mother.

In addition to a number of original cast albums, Brown recorded several solo albums, including Georgia Brown Sings Kurt Weill and Georgia Brown Sings Gershwin.

In 1974 Brown married producer Gareth Wigan with whom she had been a couple for at least seven years, the two marrying to expedite the immigration of themselves and their son Jonathan (then aged six) to the US. Brown and Wigan separated in 1979 with their divorce only becoming final in 1981 subsequent to protracted legal wrangling.

Brown died at the age of 58 in her native London on 5 July 1992. Although she had become a permanent US resident and lived in Hollywood, she had flown to London to appear on the bill for a tribute to Sammy Davis Jr held that week at the Drury Lane Theatre. Before the date of the tribute Brown became ill and underwent emergency surgery to remove an intestinal obstruction at Charing Cross Hospital where she died from complications. She was interred at Mount Sinai Memorial Park Cemetery.

References[edit]

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