The new musical at Black Box Theatre in downtown Moline is a real mother.
And three of the four talented women in the show are real mothers as well. In “Motherhood: The Musical,” opening Thursday night at 1623 5th Ave., Moline, Sue Fabisch reveals the lives of four women who share their insights, challenges and pleasures at a baby shower.
In the 90-minute, intermission-less piece, you’ll get a peek into the powerful friendship of Amy, a soon-to-be first-time mom; Brooke, a hard-working lawyer; Barb, a stressed-out mother of five; and Tina, a single mom seeking to balance work, her family and her divorce.
A review of a 2020 production, at Broadway World, said: “It’s not afraid to poke fun, make jokes, and get a little cheesy, but this show’s got as much heart as a homecooked meal and a warm hug.”
Directed and designed by BBT co-founder David Miller, the Moline cast includes Kirsten Sindelar, Shana Kulhavy, Emmalee Hilburn and Lucy Dlamini, wth choreography by Beth Marsoun. Music direction and keyboards are provided by Randin Letendre, with Peter Letendre on drums and Kyle Jecklin on bass. Baby bump created by Sara Nicole Wegener.
Local 4 this week sat down with the four cast members to hear their stories:
Emmalee Hilburn (Tina)
Hilburn has three daughters with her husband Andy: Lynnlee, 10; Azalea, 8; and Cianna, 2. She’s a stay-at-home mom and works with her husband for their family trucking business.
“I have a husband who’s supportive to a fault,” Hilburn said Tuesday. “He’s very happy I get to do this and the kids are excited too. I do miss them when I’m here, especially when I do shows back to back.”
This is her fifth show in the past year – including “Company” last fall at BBT, “Here Lies Jeremy Troy” at Richmond Hill in Geneseo, and “Your Better Self” and “Their Town” at Davenport’s Mockingbird on Main.
“I’m with my kids all the time when they’re not at school, so I’m lucky enough I have time with them,” Hilburn said.
In “Motherhood,” she plays a divorced, newly single mother of three kids.
“It’s the same kind of parallels – struggling to keep it all going, managing the kids,” Hilburn said. “It’s the struggles and joys – it brings up the highs and the lows, the good and the bad. I think it hits the nail on the head in a lot of areas.”
The emotional show also pays tribute to camaraderie among mothers and their innate, mutual understanding, she said.
The three other mothers fill in the mom-to-be on what to expect, including “the horror stories,” Hilburn said. “Also, the good things, like the first time they call you ‘mommy,’ and the first time they smile.”
Once she had her third child (in real life), she was both challenged and knew the ropes of what to expect.
“Since she is so little, she kind of runs the show,” Hilburn said. “No matter what my plans are for the day, it’s based on her and what she feels like doing during the day. She’s very demanding of my time, definitely.”
“I’ve been lucky enough, I have a great husband who also is an awesome father,” she said. “He works hard to afford me to be able to do this. I’m very grateful.”
Shana Kulhavy (Barb)
Kulhavy memorably played the mother in BBT’s “Next To Normal,” in 2018, which is much darker and more dramatic than this new musical.
She just choreographed “The Producers” at the Spotlight, which co-starred Sindelar as the blonde bombshell Ulla.
Kulhavy also choreographed “Big” at Spotlight (which includes the heartbreaking, spot-on mom ballad “Stop, Time”), as well as “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “Catch Me If You Can,” “Little Shop of Horrors,” and “Holiday Inn” at Music Guild.
“Motherhood” is her first BBT stage role since “Next to Normal,” and in real life she has three kids: Aidan, 20; Gabriel, 17; and Ari, an 11-year-old daughter.
Kulhavy’s role in the show has five kids and she can relate to the hectic stressfulness.
Her part doesn’t have as supportive a husband as her real spouse, Mark.
“There are a lot of parallels – they talk about the daily grind,” Kulhavy (who owns a hair salon, Shana’s Transformations, in Moline) said. “She stays home full-time and I work outside the home.” Her husband runs a truck delivery route for Frito-Lay.
It’s been hard to juggle doing theater and raising kids. When Ari was little, “she always asked, ‘Can I go to rehearsal?’” Kulhavy said. “Now she’s to the age, where yeah, you can come to rehearsal.
“She’s kind of grown up as a theater kid in that respect,” she said. “That’s also what I like about the community theater around here – they’re very open to, if you have family, bring family. That makes it a lot easier to do then.
“It’s tricky to find enough time to transition from work to rehearsal to home,” Kulhavy said. “Mark has taken on a lot more when I’m in rehearsal.”
And like Sindelar, this has been back-to-back shows since August with Spotlight’s “Producers.”
Kulhavy admires the BBT show for showing “the funny, light-hearted, self-deprecating stuff that can come up as a mom, pushing through.
“But it also shows some really touching moments, and a nice reminder that they don’t stay little forever,” she added.
Among her favorite songs in the show are her solo, “Danny’s Mom,” and “When the Kids Are Grown,” sung by three of the women at the end.
For her stressed-out character, the humor comes more in biting sarcasm, Kulhavy said. “I think she’s got that envy of the other girlfriends, that they might have it better than she does. There’s self-deprecating humor and sarcasm, but light.”
Kirsten Sindelar (Amy)
A Circa ’21 Bootlegger and veteran QC actress, Sindelar is the only non-mom of the “Motherhood” quartet. Single in real life, she plays the new mom-to-be.
“I’m actually learning quite a lot,” she said, noting she wants to have kids in real life.
“It’s like, things you might not think about,” Sindelar said. Her younger sister (who lives in Peoria) had a baby last year, Sophie (which is the name of her baby in “Motherhood”). Kirsten is going to see her all day Thursday to babysit, perfect preparation for opening night.
Of the new show, she said: “It’s not something I’m super fluent about. It’s another thing I get to learn about. I like that – especially with the roles I’ve gotten this year, they’ve all been very different. And I like that.”
Sindelar started BBT rehearsals the Monday after the first weekend of “The Producers,” while she’s also doing pre-show rehearsals for Bootlegging during the upcoming Circa “White Christmas,” and also working the pre-show for “Clue” at Circa.
On top of all that, Sindelar also will be in the cast of the next Circa children’s show, “Santa Claus: The Musical,” which will start rehearsals right after “Motherhood” ends.
“People say, You might as well do that while you’re young, and heck, yeah,” she said. “It’s fun. I feel like if I didn’t have some show to work on, I’d go crazy. I’ve always been good at multi-tasking. It’s come out great for me this year, especially.”
Sindelar has gotten close to the other three women in the cast, after only really knowing Kulhavy before. They also were in “Cats” together at Music Guild.
“It feels like a group of friends,” Sindelar said.
Lucy Dlamini (Brooke)
Dlamini is youngest of the cast, at 30. Her parents live in LeClaire, and she and her family moved here three years ago from Waterloo, Iowa to be closer to them.
Dlamini has two kids — Zenziwe, a 4-year-old boy, and 10-month-old daughter, Soleil. She works as volunteer coordinator for Genesis Hospice, and her husband Sibusiso (who’s from Swaziland in southern Africa) is comptroller for Central Scott Telephone in Eldridge. They met at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa.
Dlamini has done theater in high school and college, and her last show was 2017, in “Spamalot” in Waterloo. She loves seeing theater and was intimidated by some QC productions, so was attracted to the small cast of “Motherhood.” She had never seen a BBT show before.
“I’m really glad I started here,” Dlamini said, noting she relates to her character, also a full-time working mom of two (who’s a lawyer).
“My song is ‘Costco Queen,’ and I also identify with that, ‘cause I love Costco,” she said. “Many of the props in the show came from my house…I very much identify with her.”
Dlamini is able to balance doing “Motherhood” with real-life mom-hood, since her parents and husband are able to watch the kids. “I’m glad that it’s been just four weeks, not the six to eight that a show usually is.”
“I think getting back on the stage, I feel more confident and I really get along with the other women,” she said. “I was nervous coming in, like they all know each other and I’m gonna be the outsider.”
“They all have such great experience and I’m learning too,” Dlamini said.
The musical also has a lot to teach men, she noted.
“They’ll learn about the details we know about,” Dlamini said. “Or it’s like, that’s what they talk about when they’re together? I’ll think they’ll come away with thinking about the mom in my life, with a renewed appreciation for mothers.”
The show runs from Nov. 3 to 12, Thursday, Friday, Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Ticket prices are $13 on Thursday and $16 for all other performances. Tickets are available HERE or at the door.
Be aware that the “Motherhood” performance on Nov. 12 will coincide with the Carrie Underwood concert at Vibrant Arena at The MARK.