If a key aspect of most theater is how much a show resonates with its intended audience, Motherhood the Musical is well on its way to the sort of sustained success enjoyed by other commercially canny shows aimed at women.
That does not mean, however, that show is a penetrating, impressive or innovative addition to the world of musical theater. It isn’t.
Motherhood the Musical, now getting its world premiere at Davie’s Rose and Alfred Miniaci Center for the Performing Arts, is the creation of Nashville-based singer-songwriter Sue Fabisch, who wrote (or cowrote) the show’s music, lyrics and connective dialogue.
Though she is an experienced performer and adept at infusing the score with musical variety, what she has to say in her first multicharacter show isn’t any more illuminating on the subject of motherhood than what playwright-producer Jeanie Linders has said to an older-gal audience in Menopause the Musical. On the other hand, given the huge ongoing success of Menopause, Fabisch could do worse than walk down Linders’ lucrative creative path.
A major difference between the shows, both backed by the South Florida-based GFour Productions, is that most — though not all — of the music in Motherhood the Musical is original.
In a couple of cases, Fabisch takes Linders’ route and writes parody lyrics to existing music: How Great They Were, to the tune of The Way They Were, an ode to pregnancy-altered body parts; Bun in the Oven Medley, in which the song Good Lovin’ becomes Good Drugs, in praise of epidural anesthesia. In truth, the energy and sound of the show are kicked up a notch during the parody numbers.
Fabisch, whose music has been terrifically arranged and orchestrated by Johnny Rodgers, gets skilled, passionate interpretations of the Motherhood songs from four multitalented performers. Under the guidance of director-choreographer Lisa Shriver, Lisa Manuli (as mom-to-be Amy), Margot Moreland (as attorney and harried mom Brooke), Laura Turnbull (as stay-at-home mom Barb) and Kareema Khouri (as single mom Tasha) all shine brightly in their solos and group numbers.
Manuli is most moving as she croons Now I Know to her newborn, and she’s also a hoot in a comic cameo as Amy’s overprotective mom, a woman who exults over her impending role as a grandma. Turnbull infuses Barb’s song Danny’s Mom with a just-right dramatic tenderness. Moreland glowingly takes the lead on an audience favorite, Costco Queen. Khouri is funny, truthful and soulful as she belts Baby Weight Blues.
As noted, little in Motherhood the Musical is startlingly insightful. For most grandmothers, moms and daughters in its audiences, the depicted situations will be been-there, felt-that reflections of their lives. But that may just be the path to the show’s success.