BWW Feature: The Third Act of Susie Mosher
Susie Mosher is laughing. She's not laughing at anyone or anything, she's just laughing - standing on the carousel of life, laughing and holding onto a big brass ring. This is the time and the place she has been working for and walking toward her entire life. Happily married to the love of her life, expecting their first child, and working, finally, at her dream job, Susie Mosher has nothing but joy and gratitude in her heart. This is Susie Mosher's moment.
The Lineup With Susie Mosher has been a smash hit since debuting 18 months ago. The weekly variety show in The Birdland Theater plays to full houses of regular customers, tourists in for a vacation, and show business luminaries, all waiting to see what Mosher has created for them in her quest to bring eclectic and exciting entertainment to the public, and though spending one night every week in a nightclub can be an intimidating prospect, it is telling how many familiar faces can be seen at The Lineup every Tuesday. Ms. Mosher's duties with The Lineup do not stop at the countless administrative hours she spends booking talent and promoting the show; Susie Mosher is the Emcee of The Lineup, bringing every ounce of her unique talent and personality to the proceedings. An energetic comedienne with no boundaries and an uncanny gift for musical improvisation, Susie Mosher has people constantly asking themselves (and her) where she gets it from - the energy, the wild abandon, the ability to use any part of her life to create the manic, musical, mirth-filled, Mosher magic: where does it come from?
Pain and confidence.
It has been said that comedy comes from pain, and since pain is a sensation with which Susie Mosher has had an intimate relationship, it should, therefore, follow that she is a very funny girl. A child of divorce and raised by an alcoholic mother, Mosher spent her elementary school years as the girl everyone teased. Desperate to be liked and accepted, she was terrorized by the cruelty of the children who found her neediness amusing, the devastating effect of their malice being that the fifth-grader landed in the office of the school psychologist. Exploring the self-destructive behavior that was her downfall, Mosher began to understand the benefit of self-esteem and the art of befriending people, and the summer between the 6th and 7th grades, Susie Mosher took off 15 pounds, cut her hair, changed her appearance and her attitude, and reinvented herself completely. What followed was a school career as one of the popular kids, the school President, and the student with the biggest school spirit. Susie Mosher had transitioned, but somewhere inside, that need to be liked never went away because Susie Mosher decided she wanted to go into show business, a business where, daily, actors ask casting directors, directors, producers, and anyone else with a job opportunity to like them.
And they did like Susan Mosher.
After her mother took her to see a production of Camelot, Susie knew that acting was for her. A naturally gifted singer, Susie Mosher's first professional audition was for the West Coast premiere of Godspell, and the 16-year-old was hired, not a bad start to an acting career. The only problem is that the experience of being hired from your first audition is that the young Mosher assumed that every audition would be that easy and that every job would be a sure thing, and when that assumption proved to be false, the twenty-something Susan back-burnered her career for the party life. The death of her mother left Susie with a home all her own, and with the freedom that provided, she was able to spend a few years experimenting with all the things the daughter of a hippie has been exposed to - after all, it was her hippie father who introduced her to marijuana at the age of 16, when, during one of her stays in his home, he invited her to join him in a toke, "He would always say 'I don't know how to be a parent but I will try and be your friend' which was kind of lame -- I probably needed more of a parent, really." Years of experimenting with drugs and alcohol ended and Susie went back to work without regrets: "I had a lot of experiences that I didn't need to have at an early age...I'm not sad about anything. I love my life. I'm happy about how it all went."
Back at the grindstone at 26 and feeling like it was too late for her, a more focused Mosher found herself moving from gig to gig until she and John Boswell created CASHINO, which wasn't just paying the bills, it was a hit, and Susan (according to Actors Equity) Mosher was plying her craft in the City of Angels, sure that the dream of Broadway had passed her by, but happy to be gainfully employed, well regarded and standing on two independent legs. That's when it happened. The creative team of the Broadway hit Hairspray was mounting a production for Las Vegas and Susan Mosher was being submitted for an audition. In one thrilling turn of events, Mosher booked the job and headed for Vegas, where Jack O'Brien, Jerry Mitchell, and their colleagues mounted a show that made Mosher the happiest she had ever been. The show ran three months. Hairspray was not the right fit for Vegas, and a disconsolate Susie Mosher returned to Los Angeles to nurse her broken heart, which healed quickly enough when she got a call to take over the Jackie Hoffman role in Hairspray on Broadway, where she would still be today if the play hadn't closed.
"Being on Broadway was as great as I could have imagined it. I loved everything about it. I loved getting there and signing in and going up to my dressing room and having someone do my wigs. All the care and everything, everyone doing their jobs, dressers... it was as great as I wanted it to be. I would still be there if hairspray was running, I would never have left that ever. I loved playing that part and I loved that show."
Shows close, and life moves on, but for Susan Mosher, there were fewer and fewer opportunities, and the ones that materialized often did not work out, and each hit took bigger and bigger chunks out of her self-esteem until two heartbreaking losses and one terrible audition left Susie standing in a retail store on the phone to her wife, weeping, and declaring that it was all over and that they would have to leave town. Once home and in each others' arms, Hope reassured Susie that, together, they could recover from the blow that was her current career, and rebuild - and that is exactly what they did, with the miracle that is Manhattan Plaza. As new tenants of the building where show business craftspeople can find housing that is subsidized according to their annual income, Susie and Hope had the luxury of no longer worrying about being evicted when the money wasn't coming in, and with that burden lifted off their collective and mutual shoulders, Mosher was able to sit back, look clearly at her work situation and hear the messages from the universe -- and the message came from Jim Caruso.
"We're opening a new theater in the basement of Birdland, would you want to do something?"
The Lineup with Susie Mosher was born.
Aside from her impeccable taste and uncanny ability to put just the right artists together for an evening of entertainment, one of the reasons people go to see The Lineup is Susie's own talent. Her singing chops as strong as ever, Mosher showcases, weekly, a freakish ability to improv comedy numbers on the spot, with musical director Brad Simmons, bassist John Miller and drummer Clint de Ganon following her with shocking accuracy; and the topics of her spontaneous songwriter jaunts are no-holds-barred, and usually musical comedy rants on the pain that informed her early life. At performances this writer has attended, Mosher has sung about being "Desperate for your approval" and declaring "I'll do anything to make you like me!" while another night Susie made up a song that confessed, "The first time I smoked pot I was sixteen and smoking with my dad!" The weights that young Susie Mosher wore around her neck in her youth have become the buoys that lift her artistry to the heavens in her adulthood, and the irony is not lost her, indeed, she is quite proud of the fact. Viewing herself as an open book, Susie Mosher hides nothing from her friends or her public, believing her life experiences to be fodder for her craft and teaching moments for anyone listening to her tale. Susie will only censor herself if there is a family member in the audience who might be made to feel uncomfortable. The rest of the time all bets are off because, during the family hour that she considers The Lineup, her goal is to put people at their ease, so that the guest performers can feel at home to be exactly who they are and the audience can relax into a night of humanity and honesty, through entertainment. The shows themselves are always good because Mosher takes great care in her scrupulous curation of the talent, securing a singer, an up-and-comer, a celebrity, a spoken word act, an instrumentalist, a dance act -- she would love a ventriloquist or a magician but those are hard to come by, and she draws the line at any act that would make audience members uncomfortable. Listing her proudest "gets" as Marilyn Maye, Donna McKechnie, and Katharine McPhee, Mosher is never afraid to call on a friend for an appearance because she is confident that people will say yes: that is how much she believes in The Lineup. Her confidence helped build the show, as it has helped her throughout her life. Though shy at times, Susie has never doubted her musical abilities or her comedic skills. Even at her lowest ebb in her business life, Mosher's relationship with her talent has remained strong and fearless, and that is the reason she is able to go all those marvelous, manic, and personal places that have made guests like Marilyn Maye tell her that they admire the unbridled abandon that has become her calling card.
Of course, Hope's faith in her wife has never wavered. Now in their 25th year together, Hope and Susie are true partners in crime and life, a mom and mom shop where Susie puts together The Lineup every week and Hope creates the advertising that goes out -- Mosher wishes, wistfully, that the job didn't require so much "Banging of pots" to get an audience, a wish to which every cabaret/concert artist can relate. Theirs is a fully supportive family where everyone's voice is heard - and the voice that really needed to be heard in recent years was Hope's voice, saying it was time to have a baby.
"I never was planning on being a parent. I had been with Hope for 25 years and I always knew that she wanted to have children; but I just kept thinking 'That's going to pass and we're going to not have children.' Cause I never wanted that. But three years ago she's like, 'We're going to have children and it's going to happen now cause it's time.' So it was basically get on board or get off the train, and I love my wife and I can't imagine living without her."
The news broke on the TV show Cash Cab.
In a fun and funny circumstance Hope and Susie ended up in the Cash Cab and it was blurted out that they were needed the cash because they were having a baby, and even though close friends and The Lineup family knew, it hadn't been announced to the public -- but the day that the Cash Cab episode aired, the news landed on The Facebook Machine, and Susie Mosher had a brand new improv song at that week's The Lineup:
"Grandma's having a baaaaaaaaaybeeeeeeee!"
Their son due in six weeks, Susie is overcome with wonderment over how it will be to live in a house with a man, something she has never done before, having been raised by a single mom, a mom that she stresses she ALWAYS felt the love from, in spite of her personal demons. Knowing that she and Hope will raise their child to be and do whatever he/she/they wish to be in life, as long as their upbringing instills in them values, confidence, and respect, Susie is excited to lavish upon the child all the love that is possible for her to give, love she didn't know she had.
"It's interesting to have the last chapter be the chapter where I'm a parent, but maybe that's the right chapter. Maybe that's right for my story. It's just interesting that I am going to raise a young boy, a man. I think the universe is showing me that I have love that I didn't realize I needed to give and that I had to give ... I had the capacity to love more."
As for this moment in time, Hope & Baby Boy Royaltey-Mosher, and The Lineup are Susie's joy, her pride, her bliss, and her priority. "I would go back to work for anything on Broadway because I would be here. I could still do The Lineup and I could raise a child" but going out of town for Damn Yankees just isn't going to happen. To be taken away from her family and The Lineup to do a play, the offer would have to be the right financial offer and the right show, "I have ALWAYS wanted to play The Beggar Woman in Sweeney Todd!" Maybe the right acting offer will come along and Susie Mosher will find herself doing a role in a play -- maybe even The Beggar Woman in Sweeney Todd. For now, though, Susie Mosher has discovered the joy of saying the lines that come out of her own mind, rather than ones on the written page. To that end, the surviving, thriving, creating, dominating, force of nature that is Susie Mosher is entering this act laughing and playing the role of her lifetime:
Photos by Stephen Mosher (no relation to Susie Mosher)