A musical of considerable depth and power
A Mother's Song tells the story of three women at different points in history sending messages to their future generations via letters and recordings. In a structure that evokes David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas, the story cocoons itself inside this narrative structure and gets its emotional responses from the way the generations interact with each other across the divide of time. As all three women deal with their world's response to pregnancy and its impact on family life, we are given a glimpse into the lives of women and their right to choose. It is a story laden with complex emotions and heavy thematic implications which the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and the American Music Theatre Project give appropriate attention to, resulting in a musical with a heavy-hitting emotional impact that is light on levity and crowdpleasing musical numbers.
The cast deliver this weighty material with skill and gravitas, lending their characters an extra dimension difficult to convey in an hour-long musical with a large cast. The arguable "leads" in the show, Chole Howard and Sandra Gidlof, as modern day couple Sarah and Alix, are impressive both as individuals and in their chemistry with one another. Gidlof is an extraordinary singing talent and Howard is the most nuanced actor of the group, finding huge depth in her role, even with the amount of characters she has to share the stage with. Sally Swanson and Ingrid Gräsbeck complete the trio of women who explore the show's central theme, both also performing with admirable passion and commitment. The male cast of the show lacks the material afforded the women, but it seems here that despite talent shown by the likes of Jacob Bedford and Elijah Warfield it is clear why the women are the stars of this show.
A Mother's Song is hugely impressive in its exploration of complex themes in an hour-long dramatic musical. Most similar shows of twice the length and exposure don't dare to alienate their audience with the kind of thematic material mined and composer Finn Anderson (along with co-story writer Tania Azevedo) have crafted a musical of considerable depth and power. While its counterpart, The Book Of Names, is undoubtedly the bigger crowdpleaser of the pair, A Mother's Song is a beautiful and deeply personal work of theatre that is thoroughly rewarding for those looking for that rarely succesful thing: the purely dramatic musical.