We’ve all heard of Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and maybe even Codependents Anonymous but this MA: Motherholics Anonymous. For all those people who just can’t separate themselves from their clingy, controlling mothers, MA is a safe space amongst fellow mother addicts.
Maria (Maria de Marco) used to be a regular attendee of MA meetings but she’s fallen back into the familiar relationship pattern with her mother of feeling smothered and criticised. As her belated 50th birthday party approaches, she begins to examine her estranged relationship with her own daughter Bella (Esther Monck) and decides to reconnect with her, ironically, at a local MA meeting that Bee runs. As a sequel to de Marco’s 2004 MA, Back to MA is a cabaret comprised of reimagined show tunes and pop songs that works through the 12 Steps of Motherholics Anonymous while Bee and Maria also work through their particularly rocky relationship.
The structure of the cabaret’s narrative was relaxed but easy to follow as a stand-alone story of Maria and Bee’s mummy issues. Director Simon Ward kept the production adornment minimal and transformed the underground El Rocco stage space into a welcome meeting room with MA program pamphlets and a handy clipboard copy of the 12 Steps. The atmosphere was familiar and conversational which helped smooth out the transition between the selected numbers and include the audience in the show’s energy. The excellent musical direction and accompaniment by Andy Freeborn added additional amusement as they popped into the action at opportune moments.
Some of the song selections mapped very well onto the push and pull of Maria and Bee’s relationship like “Sorry Grateful” from Stephen Sondheim’s Company and “The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From the Tree” from the Rink. Others need some tweaks to lyrics, specifically to change the musical relationship from lovers to mother and daughter like “You Could Drive a Daughter Crazy” from Company and “Therapy” from Jonathan Larson’s Tick Tick Boom. A particularly passionate rendition of “What Is This Feeling?” from Wicked by Stephen Schwartz was a stand-out while de Marco and Monck got everyone on their feet for the Italian classic “Volare”.
de Marco had a confident diva-ish presence on stage which was warm and entertaining while Monck’s version of a modern young woman was sympathetic and undecided without being fickle. The two had a recognisable back-and-forth which illustrated their involvement with MA while allowing opportunity for them to honestly communicate and grow together.
Family relationships are tricky creatures and the mother/daughter dynamic is especially potent though under-explored in musical theatre. Back to MA pinches a clever range of show tunes to construct a fun and wholesome story about love, communication, and forgiveness.
Back to MA is running at El Rocco from June 12th – 26th
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