World is a stage for optimist with dreams

The perfect partnership: Ben Mingay as Zack Mayo and Amanda Harrison as Paula Pokrifki in the musical, An Officer and a Gentleman.
The perfect partnership: Ben Mingay as Zack Mayo and Amanda Harrison as Paula Pokrifki in the musical, An Officer and a Gentleman.

MAJOR roles in school productions at Menai High School gave Amanda Harrison a stepping-stone to an international career.

She has performed in the musical Mamma Mia! and the Queen musical, We Will Rock You, both in London, while in New York she sang at Carnegie Hall as part of the 2009 G'day Australia Week.

Harrison's latest, and possibly most challenging, role is the world premiere of the stage musical version of the 1982 film, An Officer and a Gentleman, in which she plays Paula Pokrifki, the character played by Debra Winger in the film.

Harrison had never seen the film until winning the coveted lead role.

The movie was listed recently by the American Film Institute as one of the top 10 love stories in cinema history.

"I was too little to see it when the film was first released but I made a point of catching up when I knew I was going to audition for the stage version," Harrison said.

She described her character, Paula, played by Debra Winger in the movie, as "an optimist with dreams".

From Menai High School, Harrison made her professional stage debut playing Jenny in Aspects of Love.

Other Australian credits include Sunset Boulevard, Les Miserables, Miss Saigon, The Boy from Oz, Mame, She Loves Me, Guys and Dolls, Oklahoma! and as Reno Sweeney in Anything Goes.

An Officer and a Gentleman is being produced by the Gordon Frost Organisation, the company which also produced Harrison in her most recent role — Elphaba in the musical Wicked , a role for which she won nominations in Sydney and Melbourne for best leading actress in a musical.

An Officer and a Gentleman opens on Friday, May 18, at

the Lyric Theatre, Sydney.