this ordinary thursday: The Songs of Georgia Stitt [PS Classics PS-748]
Composer showcase CDs come along frequently, too many to review or even to find time to listen to. Sitting amongst the stack was "this ordinary thursday" (yes, all in lower case), which seemed to call out for attention. Get Carolee Carmello, Susan Egan, Faith Prince and Kelli O'Hara singing your songs — and your record producer to affix a little sticker to the wrapper attesting to the fact — and you're CD is likely to beckon.
The short answer is, absolutely yes! Composer Georgia Stitt was virtually unknown to me, although the name was vaguely familiar as a conductor-arranger. But Stitt is a real theatre composer, no question about that. The songs are rich and deep and intelligent, demanding instant repeat listening. Musically, Stitt holds her own with an original voice and a sometimes surprising turn of melody; her lyrics are personal, intricate and rewarding.
The songs seem to be a mix of theatrical and personal. The aforementioned leading ladies each merit their space on the front-of-the-wrapper sticker; among the best of the best is Ms. Carmello's "Life Is Not a Camera" (which is in the same rarefied class with "Finishing the Hat" and "My Husband Makes Movies"), Ms. Prince's "I Got to Show You the Ocean," and Ms. Egan's "This Ordinary Thursday." (This last happens to be about Ms. Stitt's husband. If you read between the lines, you will realize that he is a composer/lyricist himself, with a Tony Award no less; but that fact is totally coincidental to the excellence of Stitt's songbook.)
It is really impossible to pick and choose among the songs; each claims its own spotlight. Andréa Burns, Matthew Morrison, Jenn Colella, Lauren Kennedy, Cheyenne Jackson, Tituss Burgess, Keith Byron Kirk, Sara Ramirez, Will Chase — that's quite a lineup, in terms of present-day musical theatre talent. Everybody gives especially good performances, the songs glimmer and shine. Half of the numbers are arranged and accompanied by the songwriter, with small combos. There are a couple of arrangements each from Sam Davis (who composed two of the songs, to Stitt's lyrics) and Jason Robert Brown, and one — that wonderful "Life Is Not a Camera" — with a full-scale orchestration by Don Sebesky.
"this ordinary thursday" contains 12 songs, and leaves you wanting not only more songs but a Georgia Stitt musical as well.
EARTHA KITT: Live from the Café Carlyle [DRG 91499]
Eartha Kitt slid into the Carlyle last year and rocked that venerable old nitery. The veteran entertainer wasn't bringing anything new to the table; she has seen it, and done it, all before. But Kitt was in fine form, with a self-deprecating humor that more than counteracted the image of an octogenarian doing material that can best be described as mid-century sex-kitten.
The act was captured by DRG's engineers and has been released under the title "Eartha Kitt: Live from the Café Carlyle." (They have seen fit to include present-day photos, rather than some old publicity shots, and that's a fine idea; we see — and hear — Eartha as she is today.) Kitt is accompanied by her Carlyle combo, under the direction of pianist/arranger Daryl Waters. The selections are pretty much old favorites, in English, French and an array of who-knows-what other languages: "Ain't Misbehavin'," "C'est Si Bon," "Darling, Je Vous Aime Beaucoup," "Come On-a My House" and more. (The packaging, unfortunately, neglects to include songwriter credits.) Porter's "What Is This Thing Called Love," Weill's "September Song" and Berlin's "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm" cap the disc, and it is a good one.
(Steven Suskin is author of "Second Act Trouble," "A Must See! Brilliant Broadway Artwork," "Show Tunes" and the "Opening Night on Broadway" books. He can be reached at Ssuskin@aol.com)