MoM - A Rock Concert Musical
nytheatre.com review by Melanie N. Lee
August 14, 2009
What baby boomer hasn't fantasized about playing in a rock and roll band? Apparently there's a recent movement across the country of middle-aged suburban mothers forming bands and rocking onstage. In a kind of Desperate Housewives goes Spinal Tap/The Commitments/Fame, this year's FringeNYC presents MoM—a Rock Concert Musical, in which a distaff garage band of fortysomethings runs into unexpected national and international stardom.
Cabaret seating—tables and chairs—for much of the audience adds to the concert atmosphere. The five rockers take the stage, opening their self-referential show singing, "Life is sweet / Let rock and roll / Save your sorry-ass soul." In the band are tall, olive-skinned guitarist Nell (Stefanie Seskin), small, blonde, deep-voiced Melissa (Bekka Lindstrom), tall, blonde percussionist, music teacher, and single mom Nancy (Jane Keitel), brunette keyboarder Ingrid (Dana McCoy), who may love booze and pills more than she loves her famous cellist husband, and brunette drummer and songwriter Karen (Donna Jean Fogel), the straightlace of the group. Giovanna Sgarlata and J J Ross briefly appear as Roadies.
Starting in the auditorium of Jefferson High in Ohio, the group Mom (small second "m," as written on the bass drum) enjoys local popularity singing autobiographical tunes like "Lady of Leisure," "I Wanna Be a Rocker," and "Single Mom." Music resurrects their dead artistic dreams and especially releases their repressed sexuality. "I wish he could play me like he plays his cello," Ingrid complains of her husband. "I want a cowboy that says 'howdy' and 'yes, ma'am'," Nell sings lustily. Some insights into contemporary human nature peep through: "Maybe this time around...we parents will be the ones who rebel," Nancy says.
But mainly their sexuality shoots forward—in songs such as "Moms in Thongs" and "The Dark Side," in bolder, flashier costumes as a TV commercial skyrockets them to fame, and in behavior, as lust, lovers, and lesbianism overturn their lives.
The five actresses play their characters with conviction and their varied instruments with skill—including accordion, flute, and saxophone. Their vocals and their instrumentation blend wonderfully. No one hogs the vocal leads; each woman sings her story. The songs, though not memorable, are fun and energetic, exploring domestic and sexual issues in varied rhythms and styles. The costumes capture well their growth from scared amateurs to bold stars to jaded professionals. The hairstyles by Rochelle Labar also reflect the band's changes. The script by Richard Caliban, who also directed the show and wrote the songs, is funny and thought-provoking.
Eventually, though, the limited scope of their songs' subjects irritated me, as did the overreliance on sex. MoM's press release says, "Rock is rebellious and sexual, completely opposite to what we associate with the word "mom."
However, Caliban misses that rock also rebels against the state of the outside world. It's not just about looking in the mirror, spilling your guts, and waving your libido. I don't think there's a single song in MoM about sociopolitical issues, the beauty of nature, the future of humankind, or anything outside the band members' personal and sexual feelings. If Laura Nyro could write about saving the country, or John Mayer about waiting on the world to change, why can't suburban moms? I also miss the hopeful innocence of the younger rocker, or even a more mature sense of hope from these moms. I also miss any true love songs.
Overall, MoM is an enjoyable, energetic experience in courage and consequence which will probably speak to much of its audience's own repressed dreams.