By Ron Fassler
If you don’t know who singer/songwriter Georgia Stitt is, you should. On Monday night at Birdland, she performed another iteration of her “& Friends” show, or as she puts it “& Best Freaking Voices in New York City.” And with such theatre professionals as Kate Baldwin, Matt Bogart, Brandon Victor Dixon, Andrea Jones-Sojola and Jessica Vosk, Stitt wasn’t kidding.
Subtitling her show “The Me of the Moment: A Show About Re-invention,” the theme of renewing one’s purpose was a constant. The songs reflected it, and the brief interstitials that Stitt spoke to introduce each song made it clear that she was not just paying lip service to revivification. There’s a commitment to her work in both words and song, often told with a sly and subtle humor, which makes everything go down smoothly. I thought more than once of the old adage: “If you want to send a message, use Western Union.” There was no mistaking the overall excellence of the material throughout the evening.
In addition to Stitt on the piano, there was a wonderful four-piece band (which incidentally consisted entirely of women): Alex Eckhardt on upright and electric bass, Elena Bonomo on Drums, Angie Swan on acoustic and electric guitar, and Adele Stein (who plays a mean cello). The songs were tuneful and elegantly orchestrated, as Stitt is also an accomplished musical director. I found it a pleasure to watch her conduct as well as play. She even sang a few solos, leaving little doubt there’s nothing she can’t do once she puts her mind and considerable talents to it.
And speaking of talents, you can’t do much better than Kate Baldwin (Tony nominated for Hello, Dolly!), certainly one of the best actress/singers there is in today’s musical theatre. It was a pleasure to watch her stand nearly stock still in the three numbers she did, always in service to the song, with her beautiful and lush voice never sounding a false note in performance or in tone. Brandon Victor Dixon (recently Emmy nominated for his Judas in the TV version of Jesus Christ Superstar) only did one song—but man did he make a meal of it. Jessica Vosk (recently an outstanding Elphaba in Wicked on Broadway), sang two songs with great humor and power. Matt Bogart (of Jersey Boys and Aida), brought a dark, then very funny quality to his two numbers. And I particularly enjoyed Andrea Jones-Sojola (seen in last year’s CSC revival of Carmen Jones), who did a beautiful song called “Re-Creation.”
In addition to all that talent, it was the fourteen-year-old Molly Brown, singing a solo “My Lifelong Love,” who wound up with the biggest ovation of the night. And it wasn’t out of nepotism that the audience responded the way that it did (Ms. Brown is the daughter of Stitt and her Tony Award winning husband, the songwriter Jason Robert Brown). The young Brown is phenomenally poised and sang with a truth and beauty that was undeniable.
Perhaps the number that spoke deepest to me was one titled “Something That You Do,” which Kate Baldwin performed to perfection. Its lyric: “Art is something that you do. You belong to it and it belongs to you.” Georgia Stitt’s considerable art belongs to her, and due to her commitment to the arts (she’s also an activist), we are the beneficiaries in that she shares her stories in song unabashedly.
Be sure to catch the next time she performs “Georgia Stitt & Friends.” Information can be found at https://georgiastitt.com/