By MARTY CLEAR
Sue Fabisch was a young mother and an aspiring songwriter, still learning the craft, when one of her music mentors advised her to write about what she knows.
"The next thing I knew," Fabisch said, "I had all these songs about piles of dirty diapers."
Those songs eventually evolved into Motherhood: The Musical. Fabisch's comedy premiered in Fort Lauderdale in September, and this week it starts a run at the Jaeb Theatre at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa.
Fabisch lives in Nashville and has built a successful career performing comic and lighthearted country songs. She has had hits with such titles as Walmart Woman, Mom of Constant Sorrow (a parody of the traditional song Man of Constant Sorrow) and the Disney hit I Don't Think About It.
"I'm one of those overnight successes that took 20 years to succeed," Fabisch said.
In its original incarnation, Motherhood was a one-woman show that Fabisch performed. Over eight or nine years, it evolved into its current form, with four women sharing war stories at a baby shower. The guest of honor is expecting her first child, literally at any moment, and she's idealistic and naive. The other three are experienced mothers, eager to share with their young friend their stories of woe, weight gain and involuntary urination (in a song called I Leak).
The emphasis is on silliness, but Fabisch sprinkles in some tenderness with songs about the rewards of child-rearing (Danny's Mom) and the heartbreak of joint custody (Every Other Weekend).
"People are going to laugh, and they're going to cry," Fabisch said.
Motherhood: The Musical comes from the producers of Menopause: The Musical, which enjoyed a long run at the Jaeb. The shows have similar sensibilities and senses of humor, and both target women, of course, though Motherhood aims slighter younger.
But there are some differences. Menopause consists entirely of pop song parodies. Motherhood is mostly Fabisch originals, from blues to ballads to rockers. Fabisch includes just two parodies: Good Drugs is a take on Good Lovin', and How Great They Were, in which three of the women bemoan their sagging breasts, is sung to the melody of The Way We Were.
Almost every song seemed to resonate with the audience at Sunday's preview performance, which was dominated by women (at least 10 women for every man, which made for a seriously long preshow line for the ladies' room). The audience hooted, hollered and shouted out calls of agreement as the actors spoke and sang familiar observations about the difficult and still underappreciated work of raising infants, youngsters and teenagers.