Livingston native Sue Fabisch is a triple threat: The singer, piano player, and composer mines suburban mishegas to write her comic songs and musicals. Fabisch, who lives in Nashville with her husband and three children, won fans with her country parody “The Mom of Constant Sorrow.” That was followed by “Walmart Woman,” and “Music 4 Mommies,” which was a Top 10 hit on the Billboard Comedy chart. But she hit the big time with Motherhood the Musical, her stage show filled with songs like “The Kids Are Finally Asleep,” “Costco Queen,” and “Grannyland.” It played around the United States, had a run in Scotland, and toured for two years in Australia.
Now Fabisch has a new musical, David Michael Finkelstein’s Bar Mitzvah, opening on Thursday, Feb. 27, at The Warehouse in East Hanover. The venue is owned by her brother David Alan Fabisch, who has a restaurant and catering business there. This will be the debut event in the performance space.
“You know that group of relatives you don’t want to invite, but you have to? — Well, they’re all here!” reads the poster blurb. As familiar as all the family shtick and drama might sound to those with bar — or bat — mitzva scars of their own, the 90-minute script is actually the stuff of fantasy. Fabisch, whose family attended Temple Emanu-El in Livingston, graduated from Livingston High School, and her mother and her brother and his family all still live in the town. However, the “here” she jokes about in the show isn’t based on any bat mitzva of her own in Livingston. “I was a Hebrew school drop-out,” she confessed, “so no ‘bat-mitz’ for me!”
Taking shelter from the recent lousy weather down south, Fabisch e-mailed some answers to questions from NJ Jewish News:
NJJN: When did you begin making people laugh?
Sue Fabisch: Well, I’m the baby of three, so you know I was honing my craft from a pretty young age.
NJJN: Has your brother always been a supporter-collaborator?
SF: Please — my brother used to sit on me all the time. But then we grew up and started singing together…and dating each other’s friends.
NJJN: What took you to Nashville?
SF: I started taking workshops in Nashville and really loved the creative atmosphere. There are so many songwriters, and it was much more laid back for my family life. When my husband and I decided to move to Nashville, both of our families were concerned: We had two kids and neither of us had a job. But I just kept saying that something was telling me we should leave. So, in 2000, we packed up our belongings, loaded the car, and my husband said good-bye to his steady, great paying job — at the World Trade Center. Needless to say, on Sept. 11 the following year, I figured out who was telling us to leave.
NJJN: What is the best — or worst — part of having other people perform your material?
SF: I used to always perform my own material, and actually that helped me very much when I moved to Nashville. Many songwriters are not great singers, but I had a vocal performance degree and a good sense of humor that made me stand out. Plus I played the piano, and in a guitar-slinging town like Nashville, that made me different. After a while though, I realized that I didn’t really like performing anymore. Once I had other people singing my songs, well, that’s when I really blossomed. I could write all different things that wouldn’t be appropriate for me to perform, but someone else could bring them to life.
NJJN: What’s your idea of a perfect bar mitzva, and how does it compare to your real life experiences?
SF: Perfect bar mitzva? No such thing! That’s why it’s so much fun to have a musical about a fake one! There is so much material at these kinds of functions that I had to limit myself to only 90 minutes!
NJJN: What’s your idea of success?
SF: Ahh — being with my kids snuggled in bed. That, to me, is success!