“Whatever else is unsure in this stinking dunghill of a world, a mother’s love is not,” wrote Irish Modernist James Joyce, and The New Vic’s Spring Cabaret is a wonderful reminder of his sentiment in casual song and witty banter straight from four multitalented mothers themselves.
With 17 numbers, some a capella, some accompanied by piano, that range from hit musicals to classic pop songs to excerpts from cinema scores, familiar New Vic faces Jennifer Furney, Mary Ellen Harris, Sarah Lynn Roddis, and Wendy Wheeler put on a heartfelt 90-minute show expressing the joys, frustrations and heartbreak of motherhood.
The four women complement each other vocally and in terms of style. Wheeler, who musical directed the show and also does a bang-up job as accompanist, has a gorgeous classically-trained soprano with remarkable depth; Sarah Lynn Roddis brings her terrific acting chops to infuse each song with tremendous character; Mary Ellen Harris offers a sweetness that’s sometimes a little bit country; and Jennifer Furney’s dramatic interpretation elicits, at turns, goosebumps and laughter.
A little travel pack of kleenex adorns each table, no doubt anticipating tear-jerker moments. They come in handy for Roddis’s rendition of Marc Broussard’s “Gavin’s Song,” Furney’s “The Prayer,” from the film “The Quest for Camelot”; Wheeler’s “You Are My Home” from “The Scarlet Pimpernel”; and the whole group’s four-part harmony of Elvis’s “I Can’t Help Falling In Love” dedicated to “all the little babies who were too precious for this world.”
In addition to covering the grief of miscarriage and still birth, the performance goes deep with each singer sharing the realness of pregnancy and motherhood, the challenges of being a single mother, and the impossibility of having and doing it all.
But of course there’s joy and levity, too. The “Mom Song” in which they sing stereotypical phrases that come out of moms’ mouths (“say please and thank you,” “were you born in a barn?” “because I said so” among hundreds of others) in rapid fire to the “William Tell Overture”; Roddis’s “Don’t Tell Mama” from “Cabaret”; and Furney and Roddis’s duet “Where’s The Bathrooom” from “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” are among the show’s humorous highlights.
It’s a delightful evening of song and a little bit of storytelling that covers a wide range of emotion and yet is ultimately shot through with poet Robert Browning’s take on motherhood: “All love begins and ends there.”
New Vic Theatre