"Motherhood" at Trinity Rep: What to Expect

The audience sat expectantly as “Motherhood, the Musical, the good, the bad….and the laundry” began. Most of them had seen and seemingly enjoyed its predecessor, “Menopause, the Musical”. (Only in the theater could menopause precede motherhood). “Motherhood” has already had a considerably lengthy gestation period, having been done first in Ft. Lauderdale in 2010, followed by engagements in Tampa, Dallas, Philadelphia, Chicago, and even Australia. Trinity Rep didn’t give birth to this production, but adopted it. GFour Productions is the same group which produced “Nine” and “Nine to Five”. The book and most of the music and lyrics are by Sue Fabisch, who has fashioned a revue with almost two dozen songs in varying styles from pop ballads to blues to gospel. Directed and choreographed by Lisa Shriver (a very seasoned pro who counts the choreography for the current Broadway “Jesus Christ Superstar” among her credits), this show becomes a very fast-paced ninety minute intermissionless ride, with not so much as a pregnant pause, which works well for this format. The direction is fine; the choreography is mind-blowing.

The premise is that first-time mom-to-be Amy (Lisa Manuli), with a due date in three weeks, is being given an intimate baby shower, before a major one, by her closest friends who are all experienced moms. Barb (Mary Kathyrn Kaye) is a world-weary career mom with five, count them, five kids. Brooke (Becca McCoy) is an attorney in a constant tug of war between court and soccer. Tasha (Jewel Lucien) is a single (divorced) mom whose husband has left her. (In a rather unsettling decision, the role has been written for and cast as an African American woman, which doesn’t do much for eradicating stereotypes). Individually and as a group, whether belting, dancing or cracking wise, these four women are terrific.

They’re well served by the technical team. The Scenic Design by Michael Schweikardt and Properties by Bekka Lynch are clever and amusing, as is the Costume Design by Jennifer Caprio. Only the Sound Design by Amy Altadonna could use some fine tuning. For the first hour or so of the performance, it seemed the cast had just come from a gig at Boston Garden. The music, primarily by Fabisch, is serviceable and forgettable (and, disappointingly, pre-recorded). The book and lyrics are sometimes a bit saccharine (as in the ballads “I’m Danny’s Mom”, “Every Other Weekend” and “Amy’s Welcome”) but more often hilarious (as in such numbers as “Costco Queen”, “Minivan”, and the aptly-named “I Leak”), if bordering on theatrical chick wit.

This work, while overtly aimed for a female target audience, is not for women only, but estrogen helps. It’s definitely not for the lactation intolerant. Some of the humor is corny (“I leak like a Senator in Congress”), tired (lazy daddy jokes) or borrowed (“five great years of married life” out of fifteen), but mostly elicited hearty laughter of recognition. In amateur hands, it could be deadly. With four such talented triple threats in acting, singing and movement, each one with seemingly inexhaustible energy, this is one of the liveliest shows in recent memory. The amazingly varied choreography alone is worth the price of admission but not the only reason to attend; only go if you’ve been a mom, are about to become one, or have had one of your own.

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