A musical comedy based on a true story, “My Mother’s Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding” offers good humor, earnest performances and witty lyrics in a zippy 90-minute package.
David Hein wrote the musical based on his mother’s life, along with his wife Irene Sankoff, and starred in it during its premiere at the Toronto Fringe Fest in 2009. Passionate advocates of same-sex marriage, they depict one woman’s journey of self-discovery and support people being themselves through upbeat musical numbers, a little dance and a sympathetic cast of blithe characters.
The primary focus is the love story and marriage of Claire (Laura Ackerman), David’s Mom, and Jane (Deborah Sharn), a free-spirited therapist — and Wiccan — whom she meets when she moves from Nebraska to Ottowa for a job as a psychology professor. But David’s story and romantic relationship with Irene (Jennifer Theby-Quinn) is significant, too. Claire’s ex-husband, psychologist Garth (John Flack) also figures in the mix, as does her roommate Michelle (Anna Skidis).
David is played as an adult by the multi-talented Ben Nordstrom, a savvy pro whose good-natured demeanor gets the audience on his side from the first strums of his guitar, and as a teenager by Pierce Hastings, effortlessly making his debut.
The performers are all full of pep, and under Edward Coffield’s facile direction and Liam Johnson’s choreography, they amiably present the light-hearted tale. The relationship is handled with aplomb by veterans Sharn and Ackerman.
Skidis, always a welcome presence on local stages, delivers her customary spunky performance as cat-loving, choir-singing lesbian activist Michelle, and also handles other supporting roles with ease. Skidis, who grew up in Fairview Heights, has fun as a buoyant Hooters waitress and animated background singer, sporting a variety of wigs.
Theby-Quinn shows her versatility as a sweet girlfriend exasperated by meeting her boyfriend’s two Moms at, of all places, a Hooter’s. That leads to a very funny musical number.
Flack shines, too, as a genial song-and-dance man and well-adjusted ex-husband. Chase Thomaston capably multi-tasks, hilariously donning a variety of roles, including a snarky pilot, Hooters waitress and rabbi.
While the story has topical urgency, given the upcoming Supreme Court hearing and state debates of recent years, the same-sex marriage issue is matter-of-factly presented here, for Canada approved gay marriage in 2005. The musical format is not intense, and skirts dramatic conflict, but doesn’t display much emotional heft either, for that matter. It’s a sincere, civil slice-of-life story of a couple who followed their hearts, and the loving, supportive people surrounding them.
The production wears its heart on its sleeve, conveying an open, warm attitude, and the performers are on an even keel, demonstrating sensitivity and focusing on entertaining the audience. With all those psychology majors in the mix, you expect that it will address feelings.
The show’s music composition is not as successful as the message, but musical director Charlie Mueller capably manages a strong ensemble of four musicians.
The exuberant way the audience — college students through seniors — embraced the show, speaks volumes about modern society. There is much laughter and joy to behold.
At a glance
What: "My Mother's Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding"
When: Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays through May 31
Where: New Jewish Theatre, 2 Millstone Campus Drive, Creve Coeur, Mo.
Tickets: 314-442-3175; www.newjewishtheatre.org