Happy Mother’s Day! If your mom is smart and cultured—and she must be, because she had you—then the same old jaunts to restaurants and flower shows probably won’t be that thrilling. Not when you can take her to a Broadway show!
Fortunately, there’s a bevy of productions that deal with mothers—not exclusively and not always favorably, but still, they cover it and they do so pretty engagingly. Tickets to one of these shows just might be your ticket to favorite-child status.
Dear Evan Hansen
The Tony-winning smash musical centers on a disturbed high school student who becomes popular due to a fraudulent turn of events that he unconscionably goes along with. But the most touching plotline involves his (single) mom feeling like she’s lost him to another family—the one of the dead boy whom Evan claims to have been close with—only to finally earn his respect due to the sincerity of her love for him. It’s one of the most moving mother-child stories to ever be musicalized—even more than Gypsy!
The Cher Show
Cher’s role as a mother is barely touched on in this splashy jukebox musical of her life, but Cher’s mom is generously included. As played by Emily Skinner, Georgia Holt is a tough survivor who’s witty and caring without being the least bit corny about it. The way they sandwich “Half Breed” in there as a supportive song for Georgia to sing to the young Cher is quite clever. You can see where Cher got her chutzpah.
An abused waitress is the centerpiece of this hit show, which is based on the 2007 movie by the late Adrienne Shelly and features music by Sara Bareilles. The lead character (currently played by Shoshana Bean) is stuck with a lout of a husband, but when she gets pregnant, she ends up having the baby, then soars off to success, independence, and a big prize for her pie recipe. Again, a great mother-and-child musical that virtually has you tap dancing at the end—but soulfully.
One of the year’s best new musicals, The Prom is an offbeat mixture of showbiz satire and social consciousness. The premise is: A group of narcissistic actors decide to travel to Indiana to help a small-town lesbian go to the prom while helping foster do-gooder publicity for themselves. In the process, they reveal themselves to be pretty decent people under pressure, and so does the mother of the lesbian’s girlfriend, a woman who at first is all hate-y and typical. The show is a plea for listening to and understanding your child—though I must say the fun elements are somewhat more persuasive than the After-School Special–type ones.
Hillary and Clinton
The Lucas Hnath play centers on the Clintons at the time when Hillary was running for the Democratic nomination in 2008. Laurie Metcalf and John Lithgow play Hillary and Bill, and, of course, Chelsea Clinton’s name comes up—one time when Hillary remembers how hurt their daughter was when Bill told the family about his affair with Monica Lewinsky. Mother is just one of the many roles Hillary embodies, but that’s definitely included in this political fantasia.
My Fair Lady
The classic Lerner and Loewe adaptation of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion is now a smashing revival at Lincoln Center, with Harry Hadden-Paton in the role of patronizing Professor Henry Higgins, and new additions Laura Benanti as his unruly protégée, Eliza Doolittle, and Rosemary Harris as Henry’s mother, the socialite Mrs. Higgins. Mama Higgins is a wonderfully supportive character—especially to Eliza! The stately but forthright woman has no problem telling off her son and urging him to treat Eliza with more respect, thereby not only having an effect on the plot but on the audience’s ideas of how wise mothers can be. This one is absolutely loverly.
What the Constitution Means to Me
Heidi Schreck dominates her three-person show, in which she tells of her real-life speeches about the Constitution, which she toured with at age 15 to earn money for college. But the freshly constructed production is far from just a lecture. Schreck also fills us in on her personal backstory, which includes some awful domestic violence in her household and her mother’s incredible bravery in coming forward about it. Schreck’s love for her mom is as evident through the show as is her love of democracy.