IN PROFILE with Georgie Ashford from the cast of Barnum

Making the choice to pursue a career on the stage is one that is filled with equal amounts of risk and fulfilment. Performers have to deal with rejection, fierce competition, unsociable hours, constant judgement and job insecurity, which would be more than enough of a deterrent for most people. For those who have a blind love for live performance however, all the downsides of the industry are far outweighed by the happiness felt when they’re on the stage. Theatre carries further difficulties for a performer when it takes them on the road though. Being part of a touring production appeals to that sense of adventure most people have, but it is also incredibly hard as they’re away from home for months at a time. Georgie Ashford is one of those few-and-far-between people who can handle the challenge. She made the choice to live her life on the stage, and is currently living it on an array of stages all around the country as part of the UK Tour of Barnum. Her natural talent and commitment to her craft has led her to an impressive list of theatre credits, as well as the ranks of the In Profile alumni now, as she becomes the most recent ensemble member to be featured in the long-running series.

Georgie Ashford is a promising young talent in the musical theatre industry, and one who has made great progress in her career already. The Swindon actress grew up in the town of Wroughton, Wiltshire and received her first training at the Swindon Academy of Dance, which was founded in 1989 by principal Sarah Watson, Fellow of the ISTD. Her dance studies formed a solid foundation to build upon, which she did when she learnt to sing as part of the Kentwood Choir, receiving music tuition from Kentwood founder and leader, Sheila Harrod. As a Sixth Form student, she was offered a place at the Tring Park School of Performing Arts (previously known as ArtsEd, Tring) and later gained acceptance into the Arts Educational Schools, London. Based in Chiswick, ArtsEd has been the training ground for many successful actors/actresses, including stage stars Samantha Barks, Nigel Harman, Scarlett Strallen and Oliver Tompsett. While there, Ashford was involved in many school productions and played such roles as Leah in Beautiful Thing, Lynette Fromme in Assassins, Jan/Mrs Metcalfe in State Fair, Sarah in Our House, and Peg Prentice in Curtains. She also played the title role in Madonna and was a soloist in Side By Side by Sondheim, in addition to being a dancer in Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

She graduated from ArtsEd in 2011 with a BA (Hons) on Musical Theatre and spent the summer of that year in Sussex, where she appeared in Chichester Festival Theatre’s revival of Singin’ in the Rain. She had an ensemble role in the critically acclaimed production, which starred Adam Cooper, Daniel Crossley and another former ArtsEd student, Scarlett Strallen. Ashford didn’t go with Singin’ in the Rain when it transferred into the West End in February 2012 however. She made her West End début four months prior to its arrival at the Palace Theatre, having been cast in the hit musical Legally Blonde. She played Gabby/Stenographer in the Olivier Award-winning show, performing for audiences at the Savoy Theatre as part of an impressive cast which starred Carley Stenson (Elle Woods), Stephen Ashfield (Emmett) Ben Freeman (Warner), Natalie Casey (Paulette) and Peter Davison (Professor Callahan). She also covered and played Margot and was an understudy for the lead role of Elle Woods.

Following her time with the show, she was given the opportunity to perform at the prestigious Royal Albert Hall when it hosted a production of classic musical My Fair Lady as part of the BBC Proms. Backed by a 70-piece live orchestra, the performance boasted a star cast which included Annalene Beechey, Anthony Andrews and Alun Armstrong, along with Ashford in the ensemble team.

Four months later, she was involved in another memorable theatrical event when she earned a place in the line-up for the 10th anniversary concert performance of Madness musical, Our House. Staged in aid of Help for Heroes, the Savoy Theatre hosted the celebratory performance on 11th November (2012) and welcomed a cast of well-known names onto its stage. Led by Madness front man, Suggs, the 10th anniversary cast also starred Alistair McGowan, Tameka Empson and Wendi Peters, supported by an ensemble team which featured the likes of Dougie Carter (who was the featured ensemble member in last week’s In Profile), Jenny Fitzpatrick and Jack Shalloo, in addition to our Georgie Ashford of course.

She returned to the West End in 2013 in another classic musical revival, joining the London cast of  the smash-hit Broadway show, A Chorus Line, which opened at the London Palladium in February 2013. She spent two months going through the audition process before landing the role of Tricia, performing alongside her ArtsEd alumnus Scarlett Strallen once again in addition to other such stage stars as John Partridge, Victoria Hamilton-Barritt and Leigh Zimmerman. She also understudied a number of the lead female roles in the critically acclaimed production, covering and playing Diana, Maggie and Bebe during the show’s run.

She then travelled to Sheffield to spend the Christmas season appearing in Sheffield Theatres’ production of Oliver! at the Crucible Theatre. Under the direction of artistic director Daniel Evans, Ashford performed in the ensemble as the Strawberry Seller while the adult leads were played by Tom Edden (Fagin), Hayley Gallivan (Nancy) and Ben Richards (Bill Sykes). The show received favourable reviews from the critics.

Her other theatre credits include an ensemble/dancer role in Paul Spicer’s Christmas in New York, playing Witch/Goth in MacBitch as part of Perfect Pitch’s showcase of new work, and as an ensemble member of Broadway to West End at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane. She was also involved in the workshop for I Can’t Sing! The X Factor Musical.

She is currently on the road performing in theatres all around the country as part of the UK Tour of Barnum. This touring production of the show is based on the Chichester Festival Theatre’s revised version of Cy Coleman’s musical, and was launched at Leicester’s Curve Theatre on 5th September 2014. After a final performance at the New Wimbledon Theatre tonight (18th October), the show moves on to Hull New Theatre where she can once more be found in the throng of the ensemble, appearing on stage with leads Brian Conley and Linzi Hately.

Georgie Ashford has appeared in some acclaimed regional shows, several big West End shows, and is now touring in a Tony and Olivier Award-winning musical. She took a chance in chasing a dream and has already achieved so much in the three years she has been working professionally in the industry. Her sister is following in her footsteps after recently being accepted into ArtsEd too, and what an example she has set for her. Hard work and talent have gotten her this far, and there can be no doubt that even bigger and better things lie in wait for her further down the road.

You can follow Georgie on Twitter: @Georgie_Ashford

By Julie Robinson: @missjulie25

Saturday 18th October 2014

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