Born in 1933 as Lillian Klot, the British singer and actress known as Georgia Brown took her stage name from the jazz standard “Sweet Georgia Brown.” Not surprisingly, engagements in nightclubs and cabaret work marked her early career. It was in a 1956 revival of Brecht and Weill’s Threepenny Opera, in which Brown portrayed Lucy, that she first gained widespread recognition in the London theater world. In 1957, broadening her fan base, she played the same role in a successsful off-Broadway production. Decades later in her career, in 1989, she returned to The Threepenny Opera once more – this time playing Mrs. Peachum in a cast that included Sting and Maureen McGovern. Brown received a Tony® nomination for her performance
She is perhaps best known, however, for creating the role of Nancy, the female lead in Lionel Bart’s hit musical Oliver! (1960), based on Charles Dickens’s novel Oliver Twist. It was Brown who introduced the popular songs “As Long as He Needs Me” and “It’s a Fine Life.” After a successful run in London’s Royal Court Theatre, Oliver! came to Broadway in 1963; Brown earned a Tony® nomination for her performance in that production and can be heard on the original Broadway cast recording. In 1964 she performed in another musical by Lionel Bart, Maggie May.
Film dominated much of her career in the late 1960s and the 1970s. Among the movies in which she appeared are The Fixer (1968), in which she starred alongside Alan Bates and Dirk Bogarde, and The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (1976), in which she played Mrs. Freud – with a cast that included Nicol Williamson, Robert Duvall, Alan Arkin, Laurence Olivier, and Vanessa Redgrave. Her television work during this period included PBS miniseries Shoulder to Shoulder (1975), about women’s suffrage in Britain, and The Rebel (1976).
Returning to Broadway in 1977, she joined the cast of the musical revue Side by Side by Sondheim, and in 1979 she created the title role of Carmelina, a Broadway musical by Alan Jay Lerner, Burton Lane, and Joseph Stein. Later, in the United Kingdom, she put together the revue Georgia Brown and Friends, which toured Britain and then, in 1983, came to the United States. Also in London in the early 1980s she took the leading role of Dorothy Brock in the musical 42nd Street (by Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble, Al Dubin, and Harry Warren) and played Mum, Waitress, and Sphinx in Stephen Berkoff’s Greek, a Sophoclean play on the Oedipus theme, set in modern times. She reprised her roles in Greek for the 1983 New York production.
At New York’s Royale Theater in 1987, she created the title role of Roza, a musical about a concentration-camp survivor and one-time prostitute, with words by Julian More and music by Gilbert Becaud. Her television work included appearances on “Murder, She Wrote,” “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and “Cheers” (for which she earned an Emmy® nomination). Her discography includes original cast recordings of musicals and some solo albums. She died in London in 1992.