As she prepares to follow in Audrey Hepburn’s footsteps, Pixie Lott talks to Sarah Freeman about the challenge of playing Holly Golightly.
There are a handful of stage and screen roles, so closely linked to a to a particular star that it’s impossible to imagine them played by anyone else. It’s a brave woman who follows Vivien Leigh by taking on Gone With the Wind’s Scarlett O’Hara, it’s a rare performance of The Wizard of Oz that ever produces a Dorothy to rival Judy Garland and who else, but Ingrid Bergman could have played Casablanca’s Ilsa Lund?
Above them all, perhaps, comes Audrey Hepburn’s Holly Golightly. Of all Hepburn’s films, it’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s which has endured. It’s probably something to do with that little black dress, that cigarette holder, that hair do and of course that performance of Moon River. It’s now more than half a century since the original film, also starring George Peppard, was released and in recent years it has been reborn as a stage show.
Anna Friel was the first to take on Golightly and managed to emerge from press night with her reputation intact. In fact she had most of the critics swooning, although they didn’t think much about the rest of the show. Next up is Pixie Lott, the 25-year-old London born singer who is about to bring the kooky Holly on a UK tour.
“I’ve always loved Breakfast at Tiffany’s and the character of Holly is just wonderful. Of course everyone associates that role with Audrey Hepburn, but when I heard about the auditions I jumped at the chance. Who wouldn’t? It’s every girl’s dream. I think the trick though with these iconic roles is to separate yourself from the original. I can’t be Hepburn and it would be wrong to do an impersonation of her. This is my version of Holly Golightly.”
The society girl who pays her way through life by dating wealthy men, was described by Truman Capote as an American geisha and this production goes back to his original novella.
“That does make it easier to put some distance between what we are doing and the film. We take that action back to the 1940s rather than the 1960s so immediately it doesn’t feel like we are trying to be a copycat of the film.”
Lott has that fearlessness that comes with youth and early reviews of her performance have been favourable. When we speak she’s in her dressing room, preparing for another matinee performance of the show, which comes to Leeds next week. She’s in good spirits, but admits the rigours of theatre are both physically and mentally demanding and is looking forward to a short break before the tour proper begins.
“It’s fun, but it’s tough. The good thing though is that you get to share those pressures. As a singer there are obviously always other people around, but when you go out on that stage it’s just you. Being one member of a bigger cast is great. And I am learning so much.”
Lott is not exactly a novice. From the age of five she began attending Saturday classes at the Italia Conti Academy and became a pupil at the main stage school from the age of 11. Before she had completed her GCSEs she has already appeared in a West End production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at the London Palladium and there was only one thing she ever wanted to grow up to be.
“I was always a little girl who loved to sing and perform. Initially I only went to those Saturday classes because my best friend went, but I was hooked immediately. No one in my family is from a musical or acting background, but mum and dad did love music and I grew up listening to big divas like Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston and Christina Aguilera as well as classic tracks from the likes of Otis Redding.
“The one thing they had in common was that they all sang like they meant every word and that’s, I hope, what I do. I have no idea where this performing streak came from, but I do know that it’s always been there.”
Lott was certainly a precocious teenager. By the time she signed to Mercury Records when she was just 16 she already had enough of her own songs to fill a couple of albums. A fully formed package, she was a record label’s dream – she even had a name which sounded like it has been dreamt up in a music marketing department.
“My mum called me Pixie because when I was born I was tiny. My real name is Victoria, but Pixie just stuck. It’s funny, because when I think back to that first record in some ways everything happened so fast, but it also seemed to take so long. I had been writing songs for as long as a I could remember and as soon as I signed that deal I was ready to go, but obviously things don’t happen quite like that.
“From the age of 13 I had been ready to release a record and the wait for everything to happen was agony. But when my debut single, Mama Do, came out, suddenly everything went a little crazy for a while.
“Overnight there were paparazzi camped outside my house. Life before that single and after it was a complete contrast, but I hope that it didn’t change me too much. When you suddenly become famous people can find it difficult, but this was always what I wanted and I’d like to think I’ve taken it in my stride.”
Since that single there have been three albums, an appearance on Strictly Come Dancing (Lott and her partner Trent Whiddon were eliminated at the quarter final stage) and Breakfast at Tiffany’s is another box ticked.
“This is my first play that I’ve done in about 12 years and given the amount of music which is in this production it’s a nice one for me to do.”
Ah yes, the songs. This new adaptation by Richard Greenberg, has new musical numbers by Grant Odling, who wrote songs for One Man, Two Guvnors, but Lott knows that its’ Moon River that the audience really want to hear.
“I love that song and what’s really nice is that it’s just me on stage with the guitar. Of course you have to be true to the original, but there is also chance to change it up. It’s true what they say that every night in the theatre is different and that’s really exciting.”
With two weeks off before taking Breakfast at Tiffany’s on the road, Lott was planning to finish her next album and she hopes to release a taster shortly.
“Music will always be my number one love. That’s what I do, but if there is a way of finding time to do more acting then that would be just great. I think it’s just a question of picking the right projects.”
Certainly Lott is no stranger to plate juggling. As well as the music and acting, she’s also put her name to a range of mobile phones, launched her own fashion range and stepped in to be a guest judge on X-Factor.
“Who knows how long any of this will last, but my attitude has always been to work hard and make the most of the opportunities which come your way. Honestly, I’m just having such a good time and what’s really great is being able to share it with friends and family.
“My mum and sister came to see Breakfast at Tiffany’s quite early on and that’s lovely to have them in the audience. So much has changed in the last 1o years, but I’m still that girl who grew up dreaming of being on a stage.”
Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Leeds Grand Theatre, April 4 to 9. For tickets and more information call 0844 848 2700 or visit the website at leedsgrandtheatre.com