Debbie Gravitte is delighted to come back to South Carolina for another Long Bay Symphony annual benefit for the Myrtle Beach Rotary Club.
The Tony Award winner, who has sung with more than 100 orchestras around the world, will join Long Bay at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Myrtle Beach High School for the “Dancing and Romancing” Broadway spectacular. The other guests in this eighth annual Rotary fundraiser are two Broadway singers who will dance for this affair, Joan Hess and Kirby Ward, and the Carolina Master Chorale.
Speaking by phone from home last month in Connecticut, Gravitte said she will add to only “happy memories” of visits here with family and friends. The mother of three also called meeting up with her son, a student at Clemson University, to take in a Tigers football game “way down front” this past fall “a highlight of my life ... so incredible.”
Gravitte sees any opportunity to perform with orchestras such as Long Bay as a bonus, from the stage and for audiences, especially because bigger-city symphonies play more regularly.
“When you have more of a community orchestra, their investment is different,” Gravitte said. “I also think that because the symphony isn’t playing every week, it’s more of a special event for the orchestra to play. ... People really rise up for it and get excited.”
Going global to lend her voice, Gravitte said although a song might sound the same anywhere, its perception might change by locale. She said she had just performed in Malaysia’s capital, Kuala Lumpur.
“Most people know what you’re singing about,” Gravitte said, “but their interpretation might be different.”
So many people speak English, she said, but that especially for people around the world who turn out for symphonies, a song in one place might have a “different effect” than in another site.
She named ABBA’s “Mamma Mia” as one number that remains a “universally accepted song.”
“We continue doing it in this show,” Gravitte said, referring to this Saturday. “ ‘Mamma Mia’ seems to have a universal impact. ... I go ‘Wow, that’s unbelievable that its has this reaction everywhere,’ which is why it’s so fun to do.”
Gravitte also heaped praise on two colleagues who will flank her on stage at Myrtle Beach High.
“Kirby and Joan, the two dancers and singers, are also amazing,” Gravitte said. “When people just watch what they do, it takes your breath away. ... And to do that with an orchestra, they’re going to flip out over that.”
Asked about how orchestras each have their own identity, Gravitte said that credit goes to “the conductor and how he or she manages them.”
Besides the joy of making music with Long Bay, Gravitte said teaming up for a master music class at a local high school will help make this week special.
Having played previous Myrtle Beach Rotary benefits, Gravitte said “the musicians are all so nice, probably because of living in a beach town.”
On her wish list, Gravitte said she still wants to sing in Australia, and maybe stop “on the way” for a show in Hawaii.
Among her background of Broadway shows such as “Chicago” and “Les Miserables” and numerous televised musical tributes, Gravitte also lent her voice to characters in Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” movie, from 1989.
For anyone who wants to pop in the DVD or crack open a clamshell case to watch a VHS tape of the movie, Gravitte said she’s one of the sisters, “and I’m also the scrub woman when Sebastian falls in the princess’ palace.”