‘Motherhood the Musical’ Knows Who Is Watching

Certain shows are written for a specific audience in mind. ‘Motherhood the Musical’, written by Sue Fabisch, which opened last week at the Royal George is definitely in that category. Penned by the same producers as ‘Menopause the Musical, ‘Motherhood the Musical’ gives us a brief and somewhat unintentionally bleak look at the lives of five moms of various backgrounds who share the common ground of maternity.

Set at a baby shower, three neighborhood friends and mothers (Melody Betts, Jen Chada, Kimberly Vanbiesbrouck) give an expected mother (Madeline Duffy-Feins) a glimpse of what her life is going to be after the initial joy of birth has passed. The good, the bad and the ugly are all levied at the new mom.

At a fast paced ninety minutes, ‘Motherhood the Musical’ certainly has a lot going for it, starting with an amazing and cohesive cast of Chicago’s most talented leading ladies. There is no weak link here as each performer is given several solos to show off their vocal prowess. The issue is, even though the show intends to weigh in on the issues mothers face, (including divorce, body image issues, time lost and how to properly raise a child), there is no brevity in the script. Any emotional moment that is built up quickly dissipates to make room for a new song.

There are some lovely musical moments, including the phenomenal Melody Betts’ “Every Other Weekend”, which touches on the impact divorce have on a family; There are numbers that have you rolling with laughter such as “Costco Queen”; There are songs that would make Oprah proud (“I Leak”, about the consequences of birth on the va-jay-jay); and there are also some numbers that serve no purpose whatsoever, such as “Grannyland”, which almost makes a mockery of how important a grandmother is to a family. Yes, there are a lot of songs!

The key to ‘Motherhood the Musical’ is that the producers know who their core audience is, and it is not theatre critics. The audience was full of mothers of all generations who had an instant connection to the songs and the show. Songs and scenes mothers can relate to and causes an emotional reaction in them is something beautiful to watch happen. So even though from a critics point of view the show may be flawed, for the audience it wants to reach, it surely has worked its commercial magic, and that has to be respected.

‘Motherhood the Musical’ runs through June 17th at the Royal George Theatre, 1641 N. Halsted St., Chicago. Tickets can be purchased at the Royal George box office or by calling 800.982.2787.
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