Musical Director: Georgia Stitt
Reviewer: Ava Eldred
In recent years, an abundance of ‘One Night Only’ concert engagements seem to have popped up in and around the West End. As with any instance of over-saturation, some are average, some are terrible, and then there are the rare ones, such as last night’s performance of My Lifelong Love: An Evening with Georgia Stitt and Friends, that are classy, have a reason for existing, and for the most part are truly excellent.
A lot of this is to do with the material. Georgia Stitt manages to be both mature and youthful in her writing; she sounds contemporary and fresh but always with a solid assurance that she knows exactly what she’s doing. Interestingly, the programme lists the years in which the songs were written, and for the most part, Georgia’s writing gets better and better as time goes on. Particular highlights include Palimpsest, written in 2013 for the Once Upon A Time In New York City concert series and Stop, from Georgia’s current project The Danger Years, which formed the entirety of the concert’s second act. This is usually a structure I find dull, but it worked well here. The Danger Years is pacy and engaging, and will become even more exciting as it is developed.
The cast, perfectly assembled to suit the material, can also be credited with the evening’s success. Caroline Sheen was particularly stunning, giving an intelligent, classy performance and exuding radiance throughout. Special mention must also go to Eva Noblezada, who’s assurance always amazes me, and Cynthia Erivo who, despite reading her lyrics from a folder at times, never missed a beat (and her voice was, of course, as awe-inspiring as ever). The Garrick Theatre was definitely a girls world last night. That said, the male cast cannot be discounted, particularly Jamie Muscato, who has transformed from a striking member of the ensemble in his Spring Awakening days in to a bona fide star. It was refreshing and inspiring to see such young performers as Muscato and Noblezada more than hold their own among the more experience members of the cast, and such a clever choice by Georgia and producer Danielle Tarento to put together a cast spanning age and experience levels; everyone truly brings something unique. Georgia herself is also a joy to watch. There were more than a few instances where I found my eyes being drawn back to the piano.
To watch her play is to realise that she truly loves it.
The evening’s one downfall, if it can be called such, would be the lack of interaction between songs. When a composer has done as much (and as well) as Georgia, you want to hear their stories, and although she did preface certain songs with little nuggets of history, these evenings always benefit from the intimate, personal touch that automatically comes with a performer talking about their life and inspiration. The absence of much of the material from Georgia’s albums was also slightly disappointing at first, but the material she chose instead made up for it. It is only a compliment to say I wanted more. I could have listened all night.
The show closed with This Ordinary Thursday, a song written for fellow composer, and Georgia’s husband, Jason Robert Brown. To watch her sing something so obviously personal was a real highlight, and when she reached the line “Jason says he’s in love with me”, and smiled, the audience understood, because in that moment, they felt exactly the same.