Young Artist Interview: Georgia Rawlins (Musical Director)
Musical director, pianist and keen pitband player, Georgia Rawlins, is the winner of The Musicians’ Company Music Direction in Music Theatre 2022 award, and a current Young Artist. After studying natural sciences at the University of Cambridge where she joined the university’s musical theatre society, Georgia enrolled on Mountview’s Musical Direction MA. The first female musical director on record of the CUADC/Footlights Pantomime, Georgia’s other credits include Funny Girl, Singin’ in the Rain, Astrid, Life With You, Rust, and Mrs Beeton Says. We caught up with Georgia to find out what inspires this up-and-coming talent.
Who or what inspired you to become a musical director?
A bit of everything, really! I must mention my piano teacher, Emily Leather, who is a fantastic musical director amongst other things. She got me sight reading and accompanying in school and really helped inspire my love of musicals and writing musical theatre. I played in lots of pitbands throughout school and university, mainly on reeds, and then made the jump to full musical direction at the end of my first year of uni.
Why do you think there are too few female musical directors in musical theatre?
Being an MD requires (in addition to much hard work) quite a lot of stars to align – one must be a pianist, accompanist, arranger, orchestrator, vocal coach, creative director, and manager all at once! Particularly with arts being underfunded, lots of young women are perhaps not encouraged to be in charge of the room’s music as much as they ought to be. That being said, it’s definitely changing for the better – there are some absolutely phenomenal women on the West End and I am very excited that a majority of my course mates are women this year as well!
Who has had the greatest musical influence on you?
If I had to pick just one, I’d probably have to credit Stephen Schwartz. Wicked was the first musical I saw that really got me into the art form – I’d seen many of the (fabulous) golden age ones, but the way that Schwartz intertwines plot, lyrics, music, and a certain je ne sais quoi to make Wicked’s storyline is just fab. There is a lot of Schwartz influence in my early writing!
What is your best musical arrangement to date and why?
I am very proud of my Blow, Gabriel, Blow arrangement for a gala night in 2022 – taking the original big band down to just fourteen musicians was a challenge, but the cast and band were absolutely phenomenal and it was a pleasure to conduct.
Are there any parallels between your love for natural science and the stage?
I think there are transferable skills to be found between most disciplines – with regards to physics specifically, I think the most important thing I take with me to MDing is the ability to break down a problem into manageable steps. Being presented with a massive score is often daunting, but as with science, it’s lots of moving parts that make up the whole.
If you could perform in any venue where would it be?
Ooooh, that’s an interesting question! It’s always lovely when the band are visible in a musical – the recent production of Guys and Dolls at the Bridge Theatre showcases its musicians in a lit-up glass enclosure, which is very fun! But honestly, every theatre and every stage has its charms and quirks.
How has winning the Music Direction in Music Theatre award helped your career?
Winning the award has introduced me to some wonderful people at the WCOM, as well as given me a confidence boost. It’s nerve-wracking to change career path so drastically, but throughout my time studying physics I knew that I wouldn’t be able to forgive myself if I didn’t go for it as an MD. Winning this award has given me a support network of colleagues and friends, which is so important in the creative industries, and is something I value immensely.
What are your current projects?
I have just finished working under the baton of Inga Davis-Rutter on Helen Watts and Eamonn O’Dwyer’s Mrs Beeton Says… with the postgraduate musical theatre students at Mountview, where I was delighted to conduct a performance. I have a new show, Jingle Street, going to the Edinburgh Fringe this summer, and have rewrites of Astrid ticking over in the background. I am very excited to see what’s in store next!
Interview by Suzy Willmott
Suzy is freelance copywriter who works with the Musicians’ Company