BWW Review: SuperMAS Leaps Tall Buildings

Oh, for the love of God, we get it, we get it: The superwomen - who might best be described as the superheroines of Nashville's theaterati and assorted non-stagey types - of SuperMAS love each other, admire each other's mad musical theater skills and get along as well as a bunch of Canadians trying to out-courteous one another! But just imagine how much fun it would be if the quintet of superior performers could somehow show us the seamy underbelly of their interactions and artistic collaborations, exposing us to the histrionics of the Real Housewives reality of their relationships...complete with overturned tables, repeated air kisses and trips to faraway lands where they redefine the term "ugly Americans."

Alas, we probably won't see any of that melodrama because the women of MAS Nashville (which is defined as "Mutual Admiration Society" by the five esteemed performers themselves) seemingly adore one another and now, after nine (count 'em, nine) biannual cabaret/concert productions from which they rake in so much money that they might be able to score one ticket to a Beyonce concert, it's clearer than ever before that their affection is genuine. We get it, we get it: Erin Parker, Laura Matula, Megan Murphy Chambers, Cori Laemmel and Melodie Madden Adams cannot help but be friends, comrades and confidantes. They are super-human, if not superheroines. We think they're swell.

From the very first MAS Nashville performance, back in the heady days of the early-2010s, the five women have displayed their immense talents for a gaggle of adoring fans, proving time and again (and again and again and again and again and...well, you get my drift) that they can work together amicably, perform together seamlessly and delight audiences in one fell swoop. And while every performance has been unique in its own right, there's a connecting thread that ensures their audiences will feel at home, as comfortable in their own skins (which sounds kind creepy in retrospect, but sounded very accurate when I first typed out the phrase in my brain) as the MAS ladies are in theirs, cleavage and all.

Megan Murphy Chambers, Melodie Madden Adams,
Erin Parker, Cori Laemmel and Laura Matula.

- photo by Daron Bruce

For their latest show - which, if you weren't at Jamison Hall at The Factory at Franklin last night, you are likely bereft and crying into your mocha choco yaya latte this morning - the theme for the evening is the aforementioned SuperMAS, in which the five take on their own particularly peculiar and fitting superheroine alter egos to pay tribute to all the heroes and heroines that people our world and make it a better place to be, replete with sequins, adult beverages and the uncanny ability to craft musical mash-ups that are astonishing and completely unexpected (and lots of cleavage - and laughs - no MAS outing can be appropriately described without recounting the number of laughs delivered per minute).

Introduced charmingly and amusingly by three of the MAS husbands (Tyson Laemmel, Matty Adams and Jack Chambers), the women kick things off with a medley of perhaps expected "hero" songs - including the requisite "I Need A Hero," naturally - that have never before been so effectively and stirringly performed by five women clad in rainbow-hued cocktail dresses. From that opening, however, the playlist runs the gamut from rock to country, from pop to Broadway, from jazz to blues, allowing each woman her moment in the spotlight to show off her amazing vocal chops and then bringing all five back together to blast the audience into the stratosphere with their patented MAS Nashville harmonies and musical arrangements that are totally off the grid and exactly what you didn't know you yearned to hear.

Act One's finale - a mash-up of Queen's exhilarating "Bohemian Rhapsody" and raucous "Fat Bottom Girls"-raises the roof in typical MAS fashion and only leaves the audience wanting more to come in Act Two, which features some of the best of 1990s pop music (which is not to be confused with Act One's tribute to "This Is What We Call Music: 1993," in which they perform songs with lyrics they were too young and/or naïve to "get" back in the day of their youth and which very nearly set the stage on fire with their pitch perfect renditions), in which Britney Spears and the Backstreet Boys get their due.

Audience superstars: Piper Jones, Meggan Utech,
Libby Hodges and Melinda Doolittle at SuperMAS

Perhaps the most startling part of every MAS Nashville performance is the five women's stunning capability to choose songs that get right to the heart of the matter and which showcase each woman's considerable musical attributes. Sure, you find yourself falling a little bit more in love with each of the performers, but you also are likely to be even more awestruck by their talents each time they open their collective mouth to sing...or tell a joke, share an anecdote or to graciously introduce one another with heartfelt and totally believable memories.

The night's playlist, which you might be advised to adopt as the personal soundtrack of your own life, is a startling collection of music (played with perfect intensity, and nuanced subtlety when called for, by Stephen Kummer, Tony Matula, Chris Donahue and Lindsey Miller) that somehow fits every mood, every thought you might conceive of during the course of two-plus hours that's punctuated with an extended intermission to allow for standing in line at the bar for libations. Stephen Moss' exquisite lighting design, which is as much a part of the performance as any one of the ladies, helps to create an ambient sense of excitement and gosh-all-get-out immersion in the starry, show-business vibe for which Parker, Matula, Madden Adams, Laemell and Chambers are known among their talent-savvy following.

Wayne Pauley's fabulous sound design, which allows each woman to shine and all the women to meld together when appropriate, and which ensures the audience will hear every note as intended, deserves its own paragraph of praise and gratitude in showing the whole of Nashville theater exactly how it should be done.

Erin Parker's tribute to Dolly Parton, via a soulful, country-tinged reading of "Jolene" provides one of the night's highlights, along with Laura Matula's surprising version of "The Boy Next Door" (the Hugh Martin-Ralph Blane tune introduced by the inimitable Judy Garland in Meet Me in St. Louis) that hints of promises to come in Act Two, represent the wide range of musical offerings in this or any other MAS cabaret-concert-homecoming-family reunion of the dysfunctional sort. Melodie Madden Adams' "I Wanna Be Around" (the Johnny Mercer song that was a hit in 1959 and was inspired by the break-up of Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner) shows off her altogether tremendous versatility via her smooth-as-silk rendition, and Cori Laemmel's performance of Ben Folds' "The Luckiest" ensures that each audience member counts himself/herself among the lucky few fortunate to witness her performance. And, finally, Megan Murphy Chambers, who simply cannot do anything wrong (at least in my book - and, most likely, in your book, as well), amps up the production values with her quick-witted repartee and exquisitely conveyed "S.O.B." - which becomes an anthem for everyone in the whole damn place and is enough to make Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats sit up and take notice.

So, despite our hunger for Real Housewives theatrics and reality TV-generated hijinks, let's save those for the summer rerun season and instead give credit to our higher powers, send up hosannas to God, thank our lucky stars - or whatever it is your heart desires - that we were part of the audience at the one-night-only magic and theatrical heroics of SuperMAS. Have you gotten the save-the-date card for the next one?

  • SuperMAS. Performed by Erin Parker, Laura Matula, Melodie Madden Adams, Cori Laemmel and Megan Murphy Chambers, aka MAS Nashville. At Jamison Hall, Franklin. Tuesday, April 19.

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From This Author Jeffrey Ellis

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