A song-and-dance story of love, family and gay rights, My Mother's Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding is not life-changing theatre. But it's definitely life-affirming: Co-writers David Hein and Irene Sankoff (who also play themselves onstage) have put together a feel-good musical account of Hein's mother's real-life coming-out experience. As David jokes in his intro song, MMLJWW is about "hot lesbian action... and my mom."
After a messy divorce, Claire (Annabel Kershaw) leaves her hometown of Saskatoon and heads to Ottawa to make a new life. It turns out to be very new indeed when she finds herself falling in love with Jane (Rosemary Doyle), a feisty Wiccan, while simultaneously rediscovering her own Jewish roots.
Directed by Kayla Gordon, this Winnipeg Studio Theatre production gets strong vocal and dramatic performances from Kershaw and Doyle, who harmonize beautifully in more ways than one. They're supported by a small and versatile cast that plays everything from pilots to protesters to the National Gallery of Canada. (Yes, they actually join up and form the building.)
Annabel Kershaw, Scott Peterson and Rosemary Doyle from "My Mother's Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding" (Leif Norman)
David (played as a teen by Scott Peterson and later by Hein) is a nice, naive guy. At one point, he unsuspectingly arranges for his two moms to meet his new girlfriend, Irene, at Hooters. (He likes "the owl logo with its big welcoming eyes.") The ensuing musical number, with waitresses and patrons joining in, is a showstopper.
Other musical highlights include Jane explaining her belief system in "Wiccan 101," David's father (John Bluethner) singing of Hot Lesbian Action
in a funny spoof of soft-porn clichés, and the rousing clap-along anthem A Short History of Gay Marriage
. This peppy musical précis of gay rights spotlights our country's steady, quiet, quintessentially Canadian progress on the issue.
In fact, in its resolutely positive celebration of diversity, MMLJWW sometimes suffers from a lack of dramatic conflict, both political and personal. When Irene's dad worries about her participating in a gay rights rally on Parliament Hill, she assures him, "We won't be disturbing the peace. We're Canadian."
Then there's that Canuck politeness. When Irene is preparing for her wedding to David with her five mothers - her one, his two, her dad's second wife, his dad's second wife - everybody gets along. In terms of real life, this is terrific, but it lacks a little oomph onstage.
Alison Gillmor (CBC)
MMLJWW, which has played to over 70,000 fans across North America, started out at the 2009 Toronto Fringe Festival. It's still fringey, both in good ways (there's an irrepressible "let's put on a show" energy) and in bad (there are clunky spots that could use some finessing).
Still, everybody loves a good wedding. (With some mature content, the show is recommended for ages 15 and over.) Likable, hummable and appealing -- maybe just a bit too appealing at points - My Mother's Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding
has crowd-pleasing pull.