Lost classics of the Great American Songbook are being celebrated in a new one-woman show, which is making its debut on Thursday ahead of a run at this year’s Brighton Fringe.
But the show’s origins date back almost ten years to a Fringe show at St Nicholas Church.
In the Fringe show, soprano Debbie Bridge (pictured right), who stars as musical superstar wannabe Anita Boult, was singing many of the songs featured in the musical play – but knew she wanted to do more with them.
“Some of the songs aren’t very well-known,” she says. “The whole idea was to introduce people to songs they wouldn’t normally hear which are still fantastic pieces. They are often songs from musicals that weren’t picked up by the movie versions.”
The germ of the idea became a reality after the Canadian-born singer, who has lived in Hove for 14 years, worked with actor and writer Robert Cohen and director Nicholas Quirke on an open-air version of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing in 2011.
She knew she had finally found the team to make her idea work.
“I saw some of Rob’s work and really liked his writing, so I asked him to write something for me,” she says.
“Anita was based on one conversation he had with me and his own experiences of working in the industry.”
Cohen is performing his own one-man show, The Trials Of Harvey Matusow, tonight at The Dukebox, at The Iron Duke in Waterloo Street, Hove, from 8pm.
Miss Givings is his first show written for another performer.
It follows a year in Anita’s life – from Thanksgiving to Thanksgiving – as she moves out of the bright lights of New York and back to her parents in Peekskill to “recharge her batteries and plan a new assault on Broadway”.
The songs come in both as potential audition pieces as she tries out for a reality television show, and also to underscore emotional moments in the story.
“When he created Anita I fell in love with her,” says Bridge. “She says things that you’re often not allowed to say about the industry – things other performers would never say. It is refreshing.”
The play also takes in Anita’s relationship with her family and the high school rival who has launched into a big money-making career while Anita still struggles on with her singing.
The New York setting pays homage to the home of musical theatre and the careers of Broadway megastars Barbra Streisand and Bette Midler, as well as the adopted homeland of some of the composers featured in the show, such as Samuel Barber, Leonard Bernstein and Aaron Copland.
The music, which also includes pieces by George and Ira Gershwin and Amy Beach, is at the heart of the performance.
“When I was at university one of the first songs I was encouraged to learn was Sure On This Shining Night by Samuel Barber,” says Bridge, who also performs a weekly residency at Little Bay Restaurant in King’s Road.
“I thought it was an amazing piece of music – I had no idea music like that had been written. You only occasionally hear these songs in classical concerts.”
This one-off show from A’Nother Productions will be followed up by a Fringe run at The Nightingale, above Grand Central in Surrey Street, Brighton, this May.
Miss Givings is at Latest Music Bar, Manchester Street, Brighton, on Thursday, January 17. Starts 7.30pm, tickets £10/£8. Call 01273 687171