In Part 2 of a series of interviews with the cast of A Grand Night for Singing at Montgomery Playhouse, meet Jennifer Georgia.
Joel: Please introduce yourself and tell us where we may have seen your work on our local stages before? Who did you play?
Jennifer: I’m Jennifer Georgia, and I have specialized in playing grand dames, old bats, wicked witches, harridans and viragos — no, let’s call them “strong, self-actualized women” – of various sorts since I was 12. Here in the D.C. area, these include Mama Rose (Gypsy) and the Wicked Stepmother (Rodger’s and Hammerstein’s Cinderella) at Montgomery Playhouse, Jocelyn Jollygoode and Mrs. Cratchitt (Scrooge! the Musical), the Royal Clothesmaker (The Emperor’s New Clothes), The Red Queen and the Mad Hatter –in a fruit headdress à la Carmen Miranda—(Alice in Wonderland) for Sandy Spring Theater Group, Kitty in Six Degrees of Separation at Silver Spring Stage, and movie mogul Celia B. DeMilo (Murder at the TonyLou Awards) at Rockville Little Theatre, among others.
I have also played the title role in Hello, Dolly! and Carlotta in Sondheim’s Follies (which I also directed) in Switzerland, and Golde in Fiddler on the Roof and Mrs. Higgins in My Fair Lady in London. (As the only American in a cast of 40 Brits, playing the woman who taught Professor Higgins how to speak was a bit nerve-wracking, but I knew I had succeeded when a fellow actor told me that “on stage, you haven’t an accent at all!”)
Why did you want to be part of the cast of ‘A Grand Night for Singing?’
Since I seem to be cast so often as intimidating women (although I’m very nice – really!) in character roles that tend to rely more on acting than singing, I was thrilled with the idea of being in a show with such a small cast and so much lovely music, all about romance in all its stages and forms. It was delightful serendipity that I got to join such terrific people, most of whom are friends from other shows.
What were the biggest challenges learning your songs?
The biggest challenge has been the short time-frame of the show. Because of the holidays, we have basically had only 6 weeks to learn 38 songs, and we have been doing complex harmonies, blocking, choreography and acting pretty much simultaneously. The schedule feels more like professional than community theater. It’s very exciting.
What do your songs (solos) mean to you?
I am particularly tickled with my solos because they tend to be either comic turns or emotional soliloquies. I get to make the audience laugh and cry – I hope!
How would you describe a Rodgers and Hammerstein Song?
They tend to be very sweet and earnest – you might even say corny (as Kansas in August….?). But one of the delights of this show is that the musical arrangements keep the sweetness, but jazz it up. There are songs in this show that sound like the Andrews Sisters and Manhattan Transfer. They’re a blast to sing and I hope they’ll be as much fun for the audience.
What do these songs have to say to today’s audiences?
When it comes right down to it, these songs are about love, and love is universal. When approached with a sense of humor and musical sophistication, they are very contemporary.
What song that you are not singing is your favorite and why?
Probably “Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful?” from Cinderella. It is simply a gorgeous song, and Lauren-Nicole’s voice fits it perfectly, but also it is quite psychologically sophisticated in how it examines love and the way we ascribe qualities to those we’re attracted to. I also love when the guys sing “All At Once You Love Her” – I had never heard it before, and the harmonies and arrangement are just luscious.
This is an ensemble piece. What do you admire most about your fellow cast members? And what have you learned about being a member of an ensemble that you hadn’t experienced before?
What I learned is that in an ensemble this small, there’s nowhere to hide! Everybody has to be on top of everything – and they are. I admire their dedication and professionalism, but I also love their humor. They take the work very seriously, but not themselves. They are top-notch, and totally nuts!
Why do you think Rodgers and Hammerstein’s music is still so popular and if you had to describe their legacy-what would it be?
They pretty much invented the form and structure of musical theater as we know it today, with songs that tell a story, advance the plot and reveal character. There is an emotional core and truth to their work that I’m not sure earlier songs had. Writers of musicals have been building on that ever since, from Hammerstein’s protégé Steven Sondheim to Stephen Schwartz to Jonathan Larson to Lin-Manuel Miranda. Also, the melodies and lyrical structure of their songs are superb.
What are you doing next on the stage?
I’m going to be the Mother of the Bridezilla in A Taste for Murder Productions murder mystery A Wedding to Die For at the Kentlands Mansion April 8-10.
If you could have any role in a Rodgers and Hammerstein show, what would it be?
First choice: Anna in The King and I – she’s strong, gutsy and British, but she gets to polka around in a really nice dress and sing some lovely songs. In a dream world, I’d love to play Cinderella, but the Fairy Godmother would probably be a more realistic aspiration.
A Grand Night for Singing plays from February 12-27, 2016 at Montgomery Playhouse performing at The Arts Barn – 311 Kent Square Road, in Gaithersburg, MD. For tickets, call (301) 258-6394, or purchase them online.
Meet the Cast of The Montgomery Playhouse’s ‘A Grand Night for Singing’: Part 1: Brian Lyons-Burke.
Meet the Cast of The Montgomery Playhouse’s ‘A Grand Night for Singing’: Part 2: Jennifer Georgia.