20 Questions: Georgia Stitt – My Lifelong Love

The composer and lyricist makes her West End debut this weekend, with guests including Cynthia Erivo and Eva Noblezada

US composer and lyricist Georgia Stitt will make her West End debut with one-off concert My Lifelong Love on Sunday 26 October 2014 at the Garrick Theatre. We caught up with Georgia to find out more.

1. Where and when were you born?

Atlanta, Georgia; June 17, 1972. And then I grew up in Tennessee.

2. What made you want to become a composer?

I was one of those kids who loved to play the piano. I don’t think I initially wanted to become a composer; it just turned out that I was a composer. I had a babysitter who told my mother that I picked out melodies at her piano as if I knew how to play it, and when I was seven I asked my Mom for piano lessons. I was always making up little songs and playing by ear, and around the time I was 14 I took my first composition class at a summer camp. That was it. I was good at it and I was hooked.

3. If you hadn’t become a composer, what might you have done professionally?

I have often thought I could have been a different kind of writer, perhaps a novelist or even a playwright. But I always wanted to be the person making the thing instead of the person selling the thing someone else made.

4. First big break?

Getting into NYU for graduate work in the musical theatre writing program. Getting an internship as a music assistant at Goodspeed Musicals when I was about 22 years old. Selling out a concert for the first time, probably at Birdland in NYC. I honestly don’t know if I’ve ever had what you would traditionally call a "big break." It feels like a lot of slow and steady progress in a forward direction, and I’m not complaining about that.

5. Career highlights to date?

Conducting in a Broadway orchestra pit. Producing the recording sessions for my albums with such fantastic singers and musicians. There have been some amazing experiences working on projects with Carol Burnett, Tracey Ullman, Anna Kendrick , Patti LuPone and Jonathan Groff, and there have been some short but sweet one-on-one coaching times with Amy Adams, Patrick Swayze, Zach Quinto, Brooke Shields… Ooh, sorry. That was very name-droppy. But I love working at the top of my game and all of those people are at the top of their game. It makes for thrilling collaboration.

6. Any regrets?

I don’t look at things in terms of regret. Even the missteps along the way allowed me to meet someone valuable or learn something helpful. There is one project that I spent YEARS developing and then it fell apart, so I suppose I wouldn’t mind getting that time back. Sigh. On you go.

7. What was the first thing you saw on stage that had a big impact on you?

As a teenager I had season tickets to the Memphis Symphony Orchestra. My family had seats in the front of the balcony where I could watch the conductors and see all of the musicians playing their hearts out. I loved that, and I am grateful that my parents knew how to support this burgeoning love of music in me. Then when I was 18 I came to NYC for the first time and saw two Broadway shows: The Phantom Of The Opera and Crazy For You. And I went to hear jazz at the Village Vanguard with my freshman roommate and her dad, who lived in New Jersey. They introduced me to New York and I decided then that I would be moving there as soon as possible.

8. And the last?

I recently saw a show called The Old Man And The Old Moo at the New Victory Theater, known for presenting family-friendly work in New York. The show was supposed to be for kids but my husband and I were both moved by its mythology, its magic and its scrappy sense of making music and theatre out of nothing. My kids loved it, too!

9. Who are your theatrical idols?

Leonard Bernstein, Marsha Norman, Hal Prince, Stephen Sondheim, of course Carol Burnett. I so admire the people who have longevity and make a life in the theatre, people who are known not just for the one great thing they did but the consistent body of work that they have nurtured over years and years.

10. What's the best advice you've ever been given?

Everything gets done.

11. What was your inspiration behind My Lifelong Love?

The song itself is about finding your calling, thinking you love a person and realizing that the person is perhaps only there to lead you to your life’s purpose. The purpose lasts longer. So the concert is a celebration of what that journey has been for me, and really for most people who choose to perform.

12. What have been the challenges in putting the show together?

It has been quick! The amount of time from the first green-light email saying we had a venue until the performance has been less than two months! I have been updating a lot of the orchestrations to suit this band, and the singers have been required to do a lot of their preparations on their own. I am looking forward to having all of us in the same room together!

13. Favourite moment in the show?

Yet to be determined…

14. Any rehearsal room mishaps?

I will let you know!

15. What do you hope people take away from the show?

I want people to feel like they were witness to some spectacular performances by some very real and very honest performers. These songs are little one act plays, and if you allow yourself to invest in the stories, they will take you places. At least, that’s my hope. I want people to see themselves in the struggles and the celebrations of the characters on stage, and I want them to feel like they’ve heard some great music.

16. What makes the West End special for you?

I lived in London for a semester when I was in college. I studied British literature and British art history, and I bought a Brit-Rail pass and saw quite a bit of England and Scotland on the weekends. During that time I regularly spent evenings alone in dark theatres just absorbing everything there was to see and hear, and my favourite things were Royal Albert Hall and the West End.

17. What's your favourite post-show hang out?

I enjoy the Hippodrome Casino where you can drink all night as it never closes!

18. If you could swap places with anyone for a day, who would it be?

A cat. Sleeping in the sunshine, then waking up and stretching and going back to sleep again. Every now and then someone pats you on the head and feeds you.

19. Favourite theatre saying?

Theatre: where you can’t make a living but you can make a killing.

20. What's next for you?

Well, the night after my concert I’m going to hear an evening of Judith Weir‘s music, celebrating her appointment as the first female Master of the Queen’s Music. Then, a week after I get back to New York City I’m producing and music directing a cabaret for The Lilly Awards Foundation that showcases all music written by female composers and lyricists. That has been enormous fun to put together and the Lillys are doing amazing work in support of women writers. I'm also starting to write a new musical this month, and that project requires me to learn about… bluegrass music! So, the education never stops, and that’s the joy of it all. That’s My Lifelong Love.