Sue Fabisch is the Queen Mother—just not the one you’re thinking of. The songwriter and brains behind Motherhood The Musical has built a successful career by celebrating the ups and downs of mommydom, including, as the show’s tag line goes: “The Good, The Bad, and The Laundry.”
The hit theater production is wooing audiences on a nationwide tour, and continuing a two-year trek through Australia. It runs indefinitely in Philadelphia, and has upcoming dates in Huntsville, Atlanta, Chicago, and more.
Fabisch’s real life plays like a scene from her show—she talked exclusively to MusicRow while running errands in her minivan in Franklin.
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Sue Fabisch is proof that there’s more than one way to write a hit song.
In 2000, she moved to Nashville to focus on commercial songwriting, and eventually discovered her funny songs about parenthood were resonating much more loudly than her country efforts. “People come to Nashville to learn to write songs, and that’s what I did,” she recalls. With three children—four if you count her husband like she does—Fabisch found plenty of inspiration on the home front, and she began to hone in on the mom market.
In 2002 she debuted the show O’ Mother, Where Art Thou? at the Bluebird Cafe, which spawned the parody hit “The MOM of Constant Sorrow.” She went on to found her own Mommy Music label and release a few moderately successful albums, including Music 4 Mommies: Volume 1- Songs To Make You Laugh, which was a Billboard Top 10 Comedy hit in 2006. She also began hosting a weekly talk show called “MommyTime Radio” with radio personality Karla Lawson.
Eventually, Fabisch had so much mommy material that she compiled it into a one-woman show that she performed at luncheons and other events. The production evolved and Fabisch added dialogue. “I wanted my songs to have a home,” she explains of the play. Then she upped the ante by adding a cast. “Once I put it in the four-woman format, everything took off.”
After successful readings and workshops in Tennessee, Fabisch took her production to the big leagues. Ironically, the New York native had come to Nashville, written a musical, and was taking it back to the theater epicenter, New York. She organized readings in front of several producers, and against the advice of Broadway big-wigs, she used the Music City cast for the New York readings. By December 2008 she had three production offers on the table.
The result is Motherhood The Musical, featuring 20 songs Fabisch wrote or cowrote with fellow Nashville tunesmiths including Bill Flowerree, Jesse Goldberg, and Ilene Angel, who has since relocated. The play centers around four women at a baby shower, with a song list that runs from hilarious to touching with titles such as “Baby Weight Blues,” “Costco Queen,” “Grannyland,” and “Minivan.”
Today, the show is produced by GFour Productions & Management, which is also behind the hits 9 to 5 The Musical, Ring of Fire, and Menopause the Musical.
The early Nashville cast included Janna Landry, Jaclyn Brown, Jewel Lucien and Fabisch. Today’s touring incarnation recruits local cast members for each stop. Unfortunately for Music City moms, there aren’t any plans for a Nashville run, partly due to lack of theater availability.
Fabisch credits NSAI’s Bart Herbison as one of her biggest early supporters, especially when other execs on the Row dismissed her idea as niche and unmarketable. Her success proves the importance of thinking outside the box when it comes to songwriting. “I encourage people to open their blinders a little bit,” she adds. “And while everyone keeps calling it a niche market, I would beg to differ. Everyone either has a mom, had a mom, or is a mom, right? Doesn’t sound too niche to me.”