Making her West End debut with My Lifelong Love, composer Georgia Stitt is still probably best known as the wife of that other composer of modern musical theatre: Jason Robert Brown. Yet in this one-off evening celebrating her music, she proved that she’s certainly his equal.
Stylistically there are clear similarities between their music. Both follow a comparable dramatic rhythm, merge word painting and a sense of classical composition with accessible pop melodies, and hold storytelling as a core focus. Every song is a story in its own right, both composers having a penchant for contemporary subjects – brutally honest and believable love stories in our modern world. Yet where so many New York composers attempt to replicate JRB’s sound, only Stitt can truly compete.
Stitt isn’t afraid to put herself into her music. ‘Palimpsest’, for instance, is a song that details her love affair with New York City – her most biographical song – whilst her encore was a song dedicated to her husband. On a broader scale, her songs of human relationships are relatable and deeply moving – songs like ‘The Wanting Of You’ from Alphabet City Cycle and ‘I Lay My Armour Down’ from This Ordinary Sunday. Even her setting of Shakespeare’s ‘Sonnet XXIX’ puts a modern spin on his poetry, with beautiful orchestration. These songs were all performed in the first half of the concert. Taken out of context from their respective shows and song cycles, the art song quality ensured they remained dramatically sound (theatre auditionees take note). The second half featured a work in progress, The Danger Year, a song cycle exploring the need for human connections. The technological opening number ‘Connect’, the dramatic twists of ‘The Baby Song’, and the amusing ‘A Platonic Affair’ particularly stood out.
This was also an evening to show off the incredible talent currently on the West End. Simon Bailey, Norman Bowman and Jamie Muscato all gave convincing performances with some beautiful vocals. Bailey was able to let loose with the rhythm and blues flavoured ‘At This Turn In The Road Again’, whilst Bowman and Muscato both delivered sincere emotion – particularly ‘Sonnet XXIX’ and ‘Light Of The World’.
However, Stitt surely knows how to compose for the female voice; it was the three female performers who truly stood out. Caroline Sheen’s theatrical vocal ensured her delivery of each song was always imbued with dramatic emotion, whilst Eva Noblezada has a likeable pop tone to her voice that matches her youthful exuberance (especially on the amusing ‘My Lifelong Love’ from The Danger Year). However, it was Cynthia Erivo who gave the outstanding performance of the night. Her singing is quite simply sublime: a sumptuous tone, effortless control and the stage presence of a superstar.
In all, this was an evening of heartfelt storytelling, stunning vocals and an abundance of on-stage talent. This shouldn’t be the last time Stitt’s music is heard on a West End stage.