A slick, polished work that embraces genuine sentiment without becoming manipulatively sentimental.
Some may sneer they wouldn’t be caught dead under any marquee announcing “Motherhood, the Musical.” That’s their loss. This examination of how tough it is to be a parent is so engaging, hilarious and touching that it is likely to be even more successful than the same producers‘ megahit “Menopause the Musical,” which has played to 11 million people in 250 cities since 2001.Anticipating a similar success, the GFour producers (whose Broadway resume encompasses the original “Nine” and “9 to 5″) have mounted the world premiere on their home turf outside Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to ensure the new tuner isn’t smothered in its crib. But unlike “Menopause’s” collection of parody songs, “Motherhood” has a mostly original score and book by first-timer Sue Fabisch, whose country songs include satirical, occasionally poignant vignettes of suburban life bearing titles like “Costco Queen.” When it’s not cracking wise, which is most of the time, “Motherhood” is a slick, polished work that embraces genuine sentiment without becoming manipulatively sentimental. It disguises itself as nothing more than an entertaining evening of chuckles and tears. But without overreaching, Fabisch plugs into the universality of human experience. “Motherhood” focuses on wide-eyed Amy (Lisa Manuli), who is close to giving birth when her neighbors throw her a shower. The club includes tart-tongued Barb (Laura Turnbull), overwhelmed with four children; stressed-out Brooke (Margot Moreland), splicing motherhood and a law practice; and Tasha (Kareema Khouri), a minivan-driving divorcee who wonders if the split was worth the damage to her child. At first, Amy gushes with naive expectations, but her clear-eyed friends quickly educate her on the draining demands and unique delights of motherhood. Fabisch’s ebullient score echoes genres from classic rock in “Nothing but the Best for My Baby” to roof-raising gospel in “The Kids Are Finally Asleep” to introspective ballads such as a new mother’s sudden understanding of her own mother, “Now I Know.” Taken by themselves, Fabisch’s tuneful melodies and nimble lyrics might seem just pleasant and inventive. But melded as one piece, their synergy creates something more powerful and touching. The actors’ wry but earnest performances never vamp or wink at the material, and keep the tuner from becoming just a stale riff on “Parenthood.” “Motherhood” marks the directorial debut of Manhattan-based Lisa Shriver, who choreographed GFour’s “Ring of Fire” in 2005. She provides some classic girl-group choreography, but her real achievement is the smooth fluidity and polish that imbue the production.