Actress cooks up ‘GRITS’ musical

Published 10:44 pm Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Most Suffolk residents might think of their city as part of the “South,” but the city represents a new venture northward for a stage production coming to the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts this weekend.

“GRITS: The Musical” will be performed at the center, 110 W. Finney Ave., at 8 p.m. on Saturday.

“Virginia will be the farthest north that we’ve ever been,” said Erica McGee, who created the show based on the book “Friends are Forevah!” by author Deborah Ford. McGee is also one of the show’s four female characters.

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McGee said she has received requests from as far north as Massachusetts to do the show, but the Charlotte-based group was unable to swing such a long trip without other dates along the way.

“It is a little bit of a hike for us,” McGee said. “We’re a small theater company, but we’re able to do big things.”

McGee came up with the idea after seeing Ford’s book in a store in 2007. She grew up in Knoxville, Tenn., with “Girls Raised In The South” being a popular saying on T-shirts, bumper stickers and the like.

“I was intrigued this brand I was familiar with had this book out,” McGee said. She bought it and began developing the idea for the musical as she was reading. She got Ford, the author, on board early in the development process.

The musical follows four women as they produce lots of fun and laughter, with 16 songs along the way.

“We have a 20-something blonde, a 30-something mom, a 40-something African-American mom, and a 50-something, soon-to-be retiree, Grandma type of character,” McGee said. “We span four different generations. You could recognize at least one of your own relatives up there on stage.”

Songs focus on timeless Southern themes, such as sitting on the front porch, traveling with your friends, celebrating with homemade meals and the “do’s and don’ts” of being a proper Southern gal. Music in the show includes country, doo-wop, ballads, blues and rock-and-roll, McGee said.

“It would not be a Southern show if we didn’t end it with a gospel medley,” she added.

Intermission features a Southern trivia contest with prize giveaways, and the actresses will meet and greet audience members after the show.

“The thing that I like about what we’re doing right now is all of the products that are Southern-focused right now, entertainment-wise, all seem kind of negative depictions of what Southerners are,” McGee said. “This show shows Southerners in a positive light — the relationships, values and things that we love that draw us closer together as a community.”

Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts Executive Director Jackie Cherry said she met McGee at an industry gathering and “thought it would be a great show for this market.”

“We’re excited,” Cherry said. “I think it would be a great girls’ night out, and I think it would be a great generational piece.”

To get tickets, visit or call 923-2900.