Monday, October 31, 2011

GEORGIA STITT: A WOMAN WITH MUSIC IN HER HEART




Georgia Stitt knew when she went to a music camp in junior high school and took an elective in music composition that she had discovered her life’s passion.  She found herself writing music for the marching band and for friends who were singers.  By the time she was in college at Vanderbilt University working with Professor John Morris Russell writing musicals for summer stock theater, her career path was set.

Her dad even has a recording of her very first composition, “Summer Daydreams,” which he loves but which Georgia confesses “honestly was not very good, but it was a marker of a time in my life.”  Since then, she has been busy conducting orchestras, writing an arrangement for the Boston Pops, working in recording studios, being asked by a playwright to write music for a scene, being a record producer and penning musicals like “Mosaic” with Cheri Steinkellner, “Big Red Sky” with John Jiler, “The Water” with Jeff Hylton and Tim Werenko and “Sing Me a Happy Song” with Jamie Pachino.

“As long as there is music in my life,” Georgia is one happy camper and she “likes how varied my days are.”  For the last two years, she has been writing with Cheri Steinkellner, this time around on a “new-fashioned musical,” using the Great American Songbook.  The show “Hello! My Baby” features Tin-Pan Alley era songs and revolves around a bunch of kids in the early days of sheet-music publishing.

The idea for the show came about when the Emmy Award winning Steinkellner was working in a high school directing students and discovered the kids were amazed by the old standards they were singing in “Anything Goes.”  Their questions, “why don’t we know these songs?,” led her to want to develop “old songs in young voices,” to uncover the old classics and make them fresh again.

Any songs written before January 1, 1923 are part of the public domain and no royalties need to be paid  There were a treasure trove of tunes that fit the category and Steinkellner wondered, “what if I can create an original story about the song industry and make the songs fresh to us?”  At the time, she was working on “Sister Act” with Alan Mencken and he suggested a meeting with Georgia Stitt.  The “marriage” was arranged and happily “Hello! My Baby” is the resulting bouncing musical product.

“Hello! My Baby” will be given a full workshop at the Norma Terris Theatre in Chester, called the “Little Goodspeed,” from Wednesday, November 2 to Sunday, November 27.  For tickets ($     ), call 860-873-8668 or go online to www.goodspeed.org.  Performances are Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Thursday at 7:30 p.m., with select shows at 2 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m., with select shows at 6:30 p.m.

The Norma Terris experience is a “wonderful round-the-clock four week process, writing music all day and typing notes all night.”  It involves problem solving, the “what if stage of development,” made more exciting by the addition of Kelly Barclay’s dance routines.  After many workshops, readings and arrangements for piano and voice, it’s now time to make sure the script is as good as it can be,  to get the show up on stage and, once it’s up, to edit the process and have it polished for the audience…to “freeze the show” and know it is finally finished.

As an added bonus, “Hello! My Baby” was part of the Goodspeed’s New Festival of Musicals last January and was a clear crowd pleaser.  With its run at the Norma Terris, the pair have had four weeks to make it even better.  This is “our time here to see it really dance, with eighteen actors, new orchestrations and all instruments, not just piano…and eventually we have to stop tinkering.”

Georgia Stitt hopes the Norma Terris audiences will recognize the songs like “You Made Me Love You” and sing along as well as appreciate the new verses she composed to add to the truthful story they are telling.  She wants the audience to root for the young songwriting cast.

Stitt, meanwhile, is busy with a capital B.  With Susan Egan, the original Belle from “Beauty and the Beast,” she is writing a blog called “Glamour and Goop,” about the glamorous world of Hollywood juxtaposed with the daily chores of laundry and motherhood.  Both women have two daughters under the age of six.

Georgia’s husband Jason Robert Brown is also a composer and lyricist but they don’t collaborate.  She “trusts his musical taste and he is often the first person to hear my music when it is ready to share.”  They do conduct orchestras for each other and write orchestrations for each other, but “it’s too tense to work together.  I’d rather have him love me than think me right.  Keeping separate careers preserve our relationship.”

With daughters two and six, Georgia already sees musical potential but, as parents, she and Jason will be supportive but not pushy.  When their younger daughter turned two, her older sibling played ”Happy Birthday” to her on the piano.  They will be exposed to music but if they choose a basketball hoop, that’s fine too.  For  Halloween, since the girls are in Chester with her, the costumes were Winnie the Pooh for the two year old and a go-go booted 60’s girl for the older.  For right now, the “vagabond life” and its adventures are working well for the family.

Start reading “Glamour and Goop” online to see how the creative Georgia Stitt keeps her family life and career in happy and harmonious balance.


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