MOTHERHOOD THE MUSICALby Sue Fabisch
Originally Directed & Choreographed by Lisa Shriver
Arrangements, Orchestrations & Music Direction/Supervision Johnny Rodgers
Assistant Choreographer & Assistant Director - Jennifer Jancuska
Production Supervisor - Thomas Madden
Production Stage Manager - Caron Gitelman Grant
Company Manager & Musical Supervisor - Larry Miller
Scenic Design - Michael Schweikardt
Costume Design - Jennifer Caprio
Lighting Design Supervision - Ryan Patridge
Amy - Missy Matherne
Barb - Jill Hall
Brooke - Stephanie Riggs
Tasha - Kareema Khouri
Understudy (Barb/Brooke) - Linda Leonard
Reviewed Performance: 8/28/2011
Reviewed by Bonnie K. Daman, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Sue Fabisch's tagline for her original musical fully describes this energetic, laugh-out-loud reality-based show in a nutshell. I say "reality-based" because there is not one mother who will attend this show without recognizing some or all of the real life experiences of what it truly means to be called "Mom". In fact you don't even need to be a mom to understand the humor or recognize its sentimental themes. You don't even need to be a woman.
It's a comedy roast of motherhood, jam-packed with over twenty songs all within an hour and a half of pure entertainment. Fabisch leaves nothing out and no subject is off-limits for the cast of four talented ladies to sing, dance, hug or cry with each other. From diapers, husbands, minivans and gravity to mothers, mothers-in-law and parenting books, this whirlwind show will keep you on your toes and begging for more.
Produced by GFour Productions, the group that also brought the successful hit play Menopause the Musical to the stage, Motherhood the Musical finally made its way to Dallas/Fort Worth for a nearly three week run at Fort Worth Community Arts Center's Scott Theater. The road show utilized local talent to fill their cast ? something we are not short of here in the DFW area ? and have put on seven to eight shows a week giving plenty of opportunity for regular and non-theater-goers alike to catch a performance.
The Sunday matinee was packed with excited, chit-chatting groups of women young and old; a handful of men were in tow as well. I felt like I had walked into a Mary Kay convention, without the pink, and the atmosphere was exhilarating and definitely heavy on the estrogen.
Volunteers bustled about in the lobby, manning several information booths as we walked down into the heart of Scott Theater. The aisles were overflowing with patrons making their way to their seats and a few select chairs were placed directly on the floor just a couple of feet away from the stage for true front row access.
Company Manager Larry Miller emceed a quick, festive introduction, handed out some prize giveaways, and took audience photos for the musical's Facebook page with our hands in the air yelling "Motherhood"! It was a taste of what we were about to witness, a celebratory afternoon of moms, about moms and for moms.
The opening scene was staged in preparation for soon-to-be-mother Amy's surprise baby shower. Young and na?ve, as we soon found out, Amy's enthusiasm and fairytale dreams of pregnancy and having a newborn get reined in by her three friends: Barb, a stay-at-home mom with five kids; Brooke, a working mom; and Tasha, a divorced and single mom.
The moms began sharing an afternoon with Amy, giving her pointers, like it or not, on everything baby, and the subject matter quickly turned to the things the doctor didn't tell her about pregnancy. Throughout the advice-giving, lesson-learning session, and amidst all their venting and ranting, the moms began to recall the good memories as well, shedding a better light on motherhood for Amy?whose water just broke.
The set design was like a Broadway set in a box. Built specifically for a simple, compact space, there was an incredible amount of moving parts and pieces tucked away into the unseen crevices and cubby holes behind furniture and in the walls. Without an intermission to allow for any major set change, the design had to be capable of transforming within the progression of the story - before birth, after birth with a hospital ward somewhere in there.
In the opening scenes the set was an immaculate representation of a middle class family living room, the soft yellow walls outlined with white crown molding and d?cor perfectly in its place. Even an onstage closet, when opened, was fully stocked and organized to give the set a little bit more realism.
As the story transitioned, a long display of privacy screens was strung across the stage representing the hospital. With the action onstage pushed to the front of the screens, the stage crew transformed the original tidy living room set into the "after birth" scene, a disorganized and unkempt baby nursery. The exaggerations such as clothes flung on picture frames and upside-down giant teddy bears helped amplify the suggestion that all was not perfect as the characters had once hoped.
It was the props that were the stars of the set design however. Just like the larger hidden set pieces, if your eyes wandered to one side of the stage, you then turned around and "Voila!", a plethora of new props had appeared. One prop-heavy scene revolved around a mom's obsession with Costco. If there was an award for most props on stage, the "Costco Queen" bit would take the cake.
Lighting played a small but essential part to the show. What I noticed most was the attention lighting brought to each individual actor as they performed the occasional solo. It was a gradual and subtle change that dimmed out the entire stage while a spotlight remained on the lead singer, and ever so slowly the full stage lighting would return near the end. The lighting design was natural enough that I didn't find myself really acknowledging it.
The costumes were modern-day, and mostly tailored to mirror each character's "mom situation" such as the working mom who arrived in slacks, a button up shirt and blazer. The baby bump displayed by Amy looked a little disproportionate to the actor's figure but we got the point that she was extremely pregnant.
The choreography added to the hilarity of the performances. It would come in short snippets, every other song, but the dances were smart and executed well. I didn't feel the choreography was over the top or pushed the envelope for the character of Amy. It stayed true to what she could do physically in her condition.
I was timid about going into a musical for the first time without knowing one single song. In Motherhood's case, nearly all of the songs were original, published by Fabisch and a handful of supporting musicians and lyricists. There were a couple of songs where the tunes were recognizable - a smart play on words for Twisted Sister's "Were Not Gonna Take It" (no more laundry or cleaning) or "Good Lovin' " by The Rascals (changed to "Good Drugs").
Popular songs aside, I was more drawn to the innovative pieces Fabisch created. Songs such as "Welcome to Motherhood" and "Baby Weight Blues" were laden with nonstop, clever lyrics that made my head spin, but it soon became easy to keep up with the words once familiar with the way her witty commentary worked.
Missy Matherne as Amy was boisterous and overexcited and carried her baby bump well. She excelled at the physical comedy required for the role and garnered plenty of laughs. Whether she has had children of her own or not Matherne's portrayal as a new mom was authentic.
As Barb, the mother of five children, and perhaps the most cynical of the group, Jill Hall was a riot! Hall had us laughing during her rendition of "Mommy, Mommy, Mommy" ? a strong singer for this performance as she had to go off key. Three songs later, her performance of "I'm Danny's Mom" was the most endearing number of the show, and brought tears to many; both of these songs were within the first twenty minutes.
Stephanie Riggs as Brooke didn't fit my visual expectations for the character. It may have had more to do with the costume but her physical persona didn't portray "lawyer". However that was not to negate Riggs' talent for comedy and her hilarious performance of "Costco Queen". I saw a little bit of myself in Brooke and I enjoyed Riggs eccentric portrayal.
A powerhouse performer, Kareema Khouri rounded out the cast as Tasha, a single mom who struggled over sharing her children with her ex. Khouri was the second lady of the night to bring the house to tears in "Every Other Weekend". Her voice soared through the roof with passion and gusto. She had my full attention every time she opened her mouth to sing.
Motherhood the Musical runs through September 4th at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center. If you miss the run in Fort Worth, the same cast will be packing up and relocating to perform in Richardson, Texas from September 8th thru October 9th.
Take your grandmother, your daughter and your mom and don't miss this opportunity for a great girl's night out and a special show to connect with family and friends. Guys are welcome!
"A baby is just the beginning. Motherhood is for life?"
Fort Worth Community Arts Center, Scott Theater
1300 Gendy Street, Fort Worth, TX 76107
Runs through September 4th in Fort Worth
September 8-October 9 at the Eisemann Center, Richardson.
Wednesday/Thursday/Friday/Saturday at 7:30 pm, Saturday/Sunday matinee at 2:00 pm
Tickets are $45.00
Discount tickets for groups of 10+ (call 888.440.6662 ext 1)
For tickets and information, please call 817-840.5920 or go to www.motherhoodfortworth.com | ww