Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Musical Theatre Talk Radio Interview

Listen here to today's radio interview. Trish Causey and I talked a lot about writing, music directing, TV work, balancing motherhood and career, and plans for the future. (My part of the program starts at about 8:50.)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Coachings: Pop/Rock

I give several private coachings each week to actors and singers who book an hour of one-on-one time in my studio. I work from the piano and guide the actors through song interpretation or vocal technique or audition prep. Each coaching is its own unique little thing, but today an actor was specifically looking for a pop/rock song. Ah, yes. That again.

Musical theater actor/singer/dancer types are being asked more and more to sing pop/rock, and often they have no idea what to do. They've spent years tap dancing and singing Rodgers and Hammerstein, Sondheim, Charles Strouse, and Ahrens and Flaherty and now they've got a big audition for one of the more pop/rock shows. (Think Spring Awakening, Next To Normal, Rent, Rock of Ages, Jersey Boys, Mamma Mia.... etc.) Actors want you to believe they can do everything, that they are malleable, versatile, skilled chameleons. Sometimes this is actually true.

But the actors who have for years relied on, well, acting, are freaked out at the idea that they will be required to stand in the middle of an audition room and sing a pop song. Here's why.

The big difference between musical theater songs and pop (radio) songs is they way they function. For the most part, a musical theater song exists to get a character from point A to point B. Over the course of the song, a character will have a realization, make a discovery, choose a direction or solve a problem, leading us from one dramatic scene to the next, keeping the show moving forward. If a musical theater song does not have direction to it, an actor has nothing to play and the show stalls. We audience members don't want that. We are sitting in the seats of the theater, waiting to see what's going to happen to our character. We are listening. We are invested. We do not want to be here all night.

A pop song, however, is usually more of an elaboration of a feeling. Pop songs are designed to be sung along with. They make you smile or they make you ache or they make you dance. If you can't sing along to the chorus by the second time you've heard it, it's probably not going to stick. So if you try to act your way through a pop song, it's likely going to be pretty awkward.

I remember one coaching where the actor asked, with earnest sincerity, "Won't you take me to... Funky Town?"

So here's the challenge. You've got to find a song that lets you rock out like a superstar on stage at Madison Square Garden, but you've also got to convince the panel that you can hold your own in a role in a musical.

I'm going to jump ahead and tell you that the answer is, and always is, you've got to figure out who YOU are when you're wearing this particular costume. In the same way that you'd expect to dig deep into your personal experience to figure out where you and Nathan Detroit meet, you've also got to find your inner rock star.

Here's what I think. I think the casting directors and the creative teams are asking you to show them what you look like when nobody else is looking. How do you sound when you're in the shower? What's on your iPod at the gym? What's in your car on a road trip? What is the music that you feel, deep in your soul? In today's coaching I asked my singer what pop music (recorded in the last ten years please, and five is better) he belted out in his car. His first two answers were Maroon 5 and Kings of Leon. So we spent some time on YouTube watching the videos of their songs, critically asking ourselves these questions.

1. Does this song have enough music in it? Is there an actual melody for me to sing? Is it going to sound decent when it's played on just a piano? Is it in my vocal range? (Or could it be if I raised or lowered it a step or two?) Is it as satisfying to sing as it is to listen to?

2. Once I cut the guitar/keyboard/bagpipe solo out of the middle, is there enough song left for me to use? Is there an obvious place to end? Is there a full song here or just a really great 16-bar cut? (Both are useful.)

3. Is the sheet music available? (Everything we found today was available for $5.25 at Important: Is it in the same key as the recording? Or perhaps better still: Is it transposable into a key that's better suited for me?

4. Are any of these lyrics going to make the panel cringe? Do I believe what I'm saying? Will I be able to be authentically me when I am standing in that room, singing this song?

5. Can I sing this song without just imitating the original recording artist? Or if I DO imitate the original recording artist, do I sound awesome? (God forbid you sound like a pale imitation of the only other person we've ever heard sing this song.)

Ultimately, my client and I found a few songs today that he is going to learn, and once we've worked on them a bit he'll choose what's the most effective for him. His goal was to find the thing that would not make him feel like an idiot in the "I-don't-really riff/sing-gospel/rock/improvise" category. If we find that song -- or ideally, two contrasting songs -- we will put them in his book, right after Rodgers and Hammerstein's "If I Loved You."

And my client sings a mean "If I Loved You."

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Disney Social Media Moms Celebration 2011

I spent Thursday and Friday participating in an amazing event. My pal Susan Egan and I were asked to be the closing event at the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration. Susan and I perform together often, and she has a longstanding relationship with Disney dating back to the 90s when she was the original Belle in the Broadway production of Disney's BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. (Look how gorgeous she is!) The convention was a gathering of extremely media savvy mom bloggers, and we were asked to put together an hour-long set that incorporated singing and talking on the topics of motherhood, social media, and balancing home and career. (I feel like I am both expert and novice at all of those things!)

Susan and I wondered, what on earth qualifies us to talk to this group of women? And as we sat down to build our show, here are some of the things we remembered. Susan had one of the very first websites for a Broadway actress, and I have been blogging since 2006. We are both active on Facebook and I have a busy Twitter account. (Susan now has one, as well, as the result of meeting so many inspiring women this week!) And we've done entire shows about motherhood before. (Remember our "All Knocked Up" show? Here's an interview we did as we were putting it together two years ago.)

So Sus and I put together a show that consisted of a lot of my tunes but also a lot of found material, and we yammered on quite a bit between tunes.

1. THE ME OF THE MOMENT (music and lyrics by Georgia Stitt)
Brand new song of mine, written specifically for Susan Egan about the many roles (wife, mother, performer) real women are required to play. (To be released on my next album, with Susan singing.)

2. MY LIFELONG LOVE (music and lyrics by Georgia Stitt)
A woman recounts the story of falling in love with Adam, a boy who played the clarinet. (Released on Lauren Kennedy's album "Here and Now" on PSClassics.)

3. I WON'T SAY I'M IN LOVE (from Disney's HERCULES) (music by Alan Menken, lyrics by David Zippel)
Susan's song from Hercules that her character Meg sings, sung here with the movie's animation projected on a screen behind her.

4. THIS ORDINARY THURSDAY (music and lyrics by Georgia Stitt)
Title song of my CD, about falling in love with a city and falling in love with an extraordinary man.

5. I NEVER EXPECTED THAT (music by Georgia Stitt, lyrics by David Kirshenbaum and Georgia Stitt)
Social Media song -- "The things the internet says about you/ Are there forever whatever you do..."

6. CHILDREN WILL LISTEN (music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim)
Relevant in a new way in the context of bloggers. "Careful the things you say. Children will listen."

7. I GET TO SHOW YOU THE OCEAN (music and lyrics by Georgia Stitt)
The Cape Cod song I wrote for my daughter Molly on her first birthday. Recorded on "This Ordinary Thursday" by Faith Prince.

8. NINA DOESN'T CARE (music and lyrics by Susan Egan and Brian Haner)
Susan's original tune about how playing a princess on Broadway was a little bit different from raising a princess.

9. DEFYING GRAVITY (music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz)
Because isn't that what we're all trying to do?

10. BEAUTY AND THE BEAST MEDLEY (music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Tim Rice)
Susan's signature Disney song, supported with backstage video from the original production.

11. MOMSENSE (based on the William Tell Overture, music by Rossini, lyrics by Anita Renfroe)
Seriously the best encore ever written.

WHILE I was on stage, I got nearly 50 new followers on Twitter, and in the days following the network continues to grow. I'm just beginning to learn about all of it, but I've got to believe that social networking like this can only contribute to sales on iTunes and Plus, it was great for my ego. FASCINATING.

If you're searching, my songs can be found on iTunes and the sheet music is available on Details for easy downloads HERE.

Thanks to all of the women (and some men, too) who made this week possible. What a treat to be included!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Australia, CAP21 Gala, March Update!

So... I went to Australia.

It's kind of a crazy thing that every now and then I get to put on a dress and do a concert in a foreign country, but two weeks ago Australia got to see me do exactly that. In beautiful Brisbane (which they call Bris-Vegas for no obvious reason), I co-hosted an evening with my fantastically talented fellow songwriter JOHN BUCCHINO, featuring the song stylings of singers MARIKA AUBREY, ANDREW CONAGHAN, MADELINE CAIN, ANGELA HARDING, LUKE KENNEDY and TOD STRIKE. And then, less than a week (and a few master classes) later, I had a solo concert in Melbourne, adding the vocal talents of SOPHIE CARTER, AVIGAIL HERMAN, and CHRISTINA O'NEILL. My husband Jason was also on tour in Australia, and so our kids were able to come with us. Kangaroos were seen; it was a great time! Thanks to everyone who made that trip possible, especially JEREMY YOUETT of Your Management International and MEL ROBERTSON, stage manager extraordinaire.

The past few months have been jam-packed, keeping me the best kind of busy. In January HELLO! MY BABY was presented at the Goodspeed Festival of New Voices in Connecticut, and the show was a big success. We had some incredible actors from the senior classes of the Hartt School of Music (Hartford) and the Boston Conservatory, and they brought real joy and fun to the presentation. This past weekend we did a backer's audition in Santa Barbara, CA (see photo), and we're considering a number of possibilities for the world premiere of the show, hopefully next season. I'll certainly keep you posted here if there are announcements to be made, but if you'd like to see pictures of the show and read about its progress, find our "HELLO! MY BABY" fan page on Facebook!

In February, writing partner JOHN JILER flew out to LA and we began a major rewrite on our show BIG RED SUN. For those of you who don't live in this particular hell, writing a musical means writing a first draft and then rewriting it over and over again. The more opportunities you get to work on a show, the more you learn about it. And after the NAMT Festival last fall, we learned quite a bit. So BIG RED SUN is getting a bit of a facelift and will hopefully be ready to show off her (his? her?) fancy new smile again by the end of the summer.

And FINALLY, right around President's Day, I had an original piece of music featured on NPR. Take a look.

On April 11th, JASON ROBERT BROWN and GEORGIA STITT (that's me!) will be honored in a gala concert for CAP21 at the Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College in NYC. Special guests will include (this is good stuff, y'all): DAVIS GAINES, AISHA DE HAAS, CHRISTOPHER JACKSON, BRIAN d'ARCY JAMES, LAUREN KENNEDY, JESSICA MOLASKEY, KELLI O'HARA, a 30-voice choir and a nine-piece band. OH YES.

Details here:

and here:

Jason and I don't perform together often. This is going to be a good one. Hope to see you there!

I'm off this weekend to be the guest speaker at Disneyworld for a Celebration of SOCIAL MEDIA MOMS. I'm singing original songs (with SUSAN EGAN) and talking about Twitter. Help me look more impressive by joining Twitter just to follow me!

Thanks for reading, you guys. I remain so grateful that you are listening.