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WILMETTE

Wilmette resident co-writes musical comedy about the experiences of motherhood

By Myrna Petlicki

Pioneer Press

Apr 21, 2023 at 2:39 pm

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Motherhood is no breeze — but it turns out that it can be a lot of laughs. The trials and tribulations of that unpaid profession are showcased in “MotherFreakingHood!,” a musical comedy by Wilmette resident Sara Stotts and Julie Dunlap, which comes to the Mercury Theater’s Venus Cabaret Theater in Chicago May 4-June 11, after several highly-successful runs in other cities.

The show follows three women in different stages of motherhood from the time they take pregnancy tests to when they become empty nesters. The cast includes Leah Morrow, Jacquelyne Jones, Tafadzwa Diener, and Maya Rowe.

“Insanity!” That’s what Stotts laughingly called her decision to write a musical about motherhood.

The seeds of the show were planted in 2011 when Stotts and Dunlap, who had been roommates at the University of Kansas, decided to write songs about motherhood. Stotts said they couldn’t believe “half of the stuff we go through. Nobody prepares you for this.”

Wilmette resident Sara Stotts, who cowrote “MotherFreakingHood!” with Julie Dunlap, is looking forward to the musical comedy’s run at the Mercury Theater’s Venus Cabaret Theater in Chicago, May 4-June 11. (Sara Stotts)
- Original Credit: Handout

Wilmette resident Sara Stotts, who cowrote “MotherFreakingHood!” with Julie Dunlap, is looking forward to the musical comedy’s run at the Mercury Theater’s Venus Cabaret Theater in Chicago, May 4-June 11. (Sara Stotts) - Original Credit: Handout (Sara Stotts / HANDOUT)

“We originally thought that we were just going to write funny songs,” Stotts said. “But then it really grew and developed into a story and we started to tell the story through three women who developed an unlikely friendship through being pregnant.”

Stotts has two children, Steven, 15, and Lauren, 13. Her co-author Dunlap has five children.

“All of the stories are based off of reality,” Stotts said, admitting, “They might be embellished a bit.”

Stotts and Dunlap both wrote the book and music for the show. The pair worked remotely because Dunlap lives in Kansas.

“There’s certain songs that she primarily wrote and songs that I primarily wrote but then we edited them together to make it cohesive and relatable to the story of the show,” Stotts said.

The musical was first produced in 2013 at the Lawrence Arts Center in Lawrence, Kansas. Stotts played one of the roles and Dunlap directed the production.

“It sold out. It did fantastic,” Stotts said. “From there, we picked up a production company to produce us.”

The next production, in 2015, was at the Goppert Theatre in Kansas City for a three-week run.

“It really went well. We got great critical reviews,” Stotts said.

After that, “MotherFreakingHood!” was selected to be in the New York Musical Festival in 2017 in New York City. “Again, we got really great reviews,” Stotts reported. “That gave us momentum. We were going to come to Chicago in the fall of 2020.”

The pandemic stopped that plan.

“We used that time to rewrite,” Stotts noted.

In the fall of 2022, they had a 10-show sold-out run at Director Heidi Van’s Fishtank Theatre in Kansas City. Broadway World named the show the Best New Play or Musical for 2022 in the Kansas City region.

The 2022 production of “MotherFreakingHood!” at Fishtank Theatre in Kansas City featured (left to right) Celia Shea Thompson, Meredith Wolfe, and Teri Adams. (Fishtank Theatre)
- Original Credit: Handout

The 2022 production of “MotherFreakingHood!” at Fishtank Theatre in Kansas City featured (left to right) Celia Shea Thompson, Meredith Wolfe, and Teri Adams. (Fishtank Theatre) - Original Credit: Handout (Fishtank Theatre / HANDOUT)

“Since that Kansas City show, we’ve had a lot of other theaters interested in us in Kansas City, St. Louis, Wichita,” Stotts said. “A lot of good things came out of that production.”

Stotts said that men seem to enjoy the show as much as women do.

Next up is that May 4-June 11 run at the Venus Cabaret Theater at Mercury Theater Chicago.

Stotts’ other ventures into the world of entertainment include studying improvisation at the Annoyance Theater and The Second City, and performing as the frontwoman of the funk-blues band Chubby Nothin’ and the Bone, for which the band members wrote and performed original music.

Oklahoma native Stotts earned a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree from Northwestern University and currently practices physical therapy in downtown Chicago, when she’s not promoting her favorite musical.

For reservations to “MotherFreakingHood!,” visit mercurytheaterchicago.com/motherfreakinghood-2.

Myrna Petlicki is a freelance reporter for Pioneer Press.