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A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
Mommy! Mommy! The Musical. . .Musical!
By Gianna Sobol
For most of the nineties, Elin Hampton kept busy in the TV world writing for kids' shows, including Rugrats, The Wild Thornberrys and Pinky and the Brain. It seems she's grown out of those shoes and into some bigger ones. Mommy! Mommy! is her attempt to capture that other audience — the one that raises those kids.
The book is about four women — Bess, Cydney, Yvette and Mare — who brave the cold and clutter of motherhood. Bess quits her high-pressure job to raise her little girl. Cydney is forced into single motherhood. And life-partners Yvette and Mare adopt twins from China and raise them as their own. Anyone and Everyone, the only man on stage, fills in for any and every other character necessary.
The women endure the tantrums, the vacations, the parties, the poopies — but not much happens on stage. The audience doesn't get to take part in these misadventures. The women simply lament their woes and beg for sympathy. Consequently, by Act II, it's hard to keep caring. The women lose their hunger for motherhood, and Anyone and Everyone transforms from a caricature of an Asian nail stylist to a grieving Jewish man too quickly. The performances, the music and the story all lose luster starting with the second act opening number, "Clutter Blues. "
Though the writing is at times witty, the characters clear-cut and the score energetic, the show comes off as a mediocre sitcom. Punch line follows punch line but fails to really land because of the show's lack of strong direction. The performances are inconsistent and fail to cohere into the strong ensemble needed for such a small cast and intimate venue.
The choreography is also weak. The performers sit and sing. They stand and sing. Sometimes they sway their hips and sing, the audience forced to play therapist. The one standout scene comes when the women take an exercise break and slither around the beams that hold the theater up as though they were a pole-dancing class, poking fun at the ever-hip workshops offered at Crunch and Equinox and the like. It is clear here that Kay Cole knows what she is doing. If only she had applied it to the whole show.
Plastered with the headshots of various children and eerie paintings of adult faces, the set never really explains itself. The central pieces are giant colorful building blocks that the women shuffle around the stage arranging and rearranging for no apparent reasons. It's a cute idea, but like the brown paper bag your ticket comes in, there's no real payoff.
The strongest asset of Mommy! Mommy! is Gerald Sternbach's music. His songs vary in styles and fit the lyrics. The highlight numbers are the soulful "Mid Life Mama" and the pleasantly perky "A Typical Birthday Party."
Mommy! Mommy! raises some poignant questions about motherhood even though it falls short of really exploring their intricacies. There is a very specific audience for this show. Perhaps it was written not for the childless or those who have raised kids, but for those who have been around long enough to watch their children tackle the same adventure. So all that said, I guarantee your grandmother will love it.
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.
Leonard Maltin's 2007 Movie Guide
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