The World Premiere Musical “Last of the Red Hot Mamas” is Sizzling at the Bucks County Playhouse

You never know how one moment in life can help guide your destiny. Just ask Lloyd and Sue Ecker, the noted married theater, film, and book collaborators.

This couple, who have known one another for 50 years, first fell in love with a young Bette Midler and her accompanist Barry Manilow at a college event Lloyd planned. Midler’s act was filled with humor and shtick that she attributed to the great Sophie Tucker, which led to a life-long fascination with Tucker.

Now years after writing and producing a documentary The Outrageous Sophie Tucker, with interviews from Barbara Walters and Michael Feinstein, the Eckers’ have spun their magic for the stage.

Their new production, Last of The Red Hot Mamas, is sizzling at the Bucks County Playhouse through Saturday, July 27. Audiences are flocking to see this marvel.

“This is beyond exciting,” Sue Ecker recently said. “It is exhilarating to see the audience’s reaction to this show that we love so much and the woman we love so much. We are thrilled beyond belief!”

The new musical highlights the fact that before such A-list celebrities as Mae West, Bette Midler, or Queen Latifah, there was Sophie Tucker. 

Tucker’s career started with serving up jokes with a side of blintzes in a Jewish deli in Hartford to performing for adoring crowds at Broadway’s Palace Theater in seven short years, The sassy, saucy, toe-tapping musical, features performances from a stellar cast.

Ryann Redmond as Sophie Tucker and Rheaume Crenshaw as Mollie Elkins in “Last of the Red Hot Mamas” at the Bucks County Playhouse. Photo Credit: Joan Marcus.

“The big surprise for me was seeing how Sophie Tucker’s wild, racy, and very funny take on life changed show business forever,” says Alexander Fraser, the playhouse’s producing director. “Sophie Tucker made the world accept her for who she was . . . a full-figured Jewish girl with a voice as loud as a steam whistle,” he added. “We’re proud to help shed light on how she paved the way for all those to follow who felt like they didn’t fit in.”

Tucker was known for performing such songs as After You’re Gone, There’ll Be Some Changes Made, and Some of These Days. The musical features these songs, along with other classics of their time — delivered with lots of tap dancing, and a big dose of Sophie’s groundbreaking, sassy humor. Last of the Red Hot Mamas is the next step in the Eckers’ 50-plus-year fascination with the saucy, sassy comedienne. To bring their dream to life, they joined forces with Director Shea Sullivan, and award-winning playwright, Harrison David Rivers.

Ryann Redmond, Broadway’s first female Olaf in “Disney’s Frozen” and most recently “Once Upon a One More Time” is starring in the leading role of Sophie Tucker.

The big new musical has a rich history. In 1973, while they were students at Ithaca College, Susan Denner (now Ecker) and Lloyd Ecker went on a first date to a Bette Midler concert. The couple quickly fell in love—with both each other and the Divine Miss M.

Midler’s hilarious ‘Soph’ jokes piqued their curiosity about their origin — the pioneering vaudeville performer Sophie Tucker — leading the duo to publish a fictional memoir, I Am Sophie Tucker, and create a well-regarded 2014  documentary, The Outrageous Sophie Tucker.

“Picture a groundbreaking, occasionally arrested for sexual innuendo, jazz-singing, 25-year-old very plump ‘Taylor Swift’ of 1913. Sophie Tucker was on the front pages every day, with men craving her and women copying her hair and fashion styles. We’re confident our must-see world premiere musical is going to make Tucker an international icon… again,” says Lloyd Ecker.

Added Susan Ecker, “We’re equally sure the innovative and exciting Bucks County Playhouse is about to become the place to be this July.”

The creative team for the production consists of Director Shea Sullivan, Nate Bertone (Scenic Design), Jeanette Christensen (Costume Design), J. Jared Janas (Hair, Wig and Makeup Design), Kirk Bookman (Lighting Design), and Jeff Sherwood (Sound Design). Merrick A.B. Williams is the production stage manager, musical arrangements were done by Sam Davis with orchestrations and additional arrangements by Greg Jarrett. The casting was done by Paul Hardt. 

Last of the Red Hot Mamas is the 11th world premiere at the New Hope theater since it re-opened in 2012 and is part of the Bucks County Playhouse’s commitment to developing new work.

Susan and Lloyd Ecker, the creative team behind “Last of the Red Hot Mamas.”

The following is an exclusive Q and A with creators Sue and Lloyd Ecker about their latest endeavor, Last of the Red Hot Mamas.

Why is Sophie Tucker still relevant in 2024?

Sue Ecker: She was a full-bodied woman who probably was fat-shamed on stage and she responded to the naysayers, “There is more of me to love,” which gave the women in the audience permission to accept her and themselves. Women fell in love with her during her six generations in show business.

Lloyd Ecker: She was also the first woman to address the sexual needs of women in her songs, and the sexual innuendo was very risqué for her time; she was a true trailblazer. So, Lizzo was not the first woman to stand up for this.

Lloyd, please tell me about your show biz career early on.

Lloyd Ecker: I was a stand-up comic in college and did gigs at Catch a Rising Star and working right next to me were Jerry Seinfeld and Jay Leno, and I asked both of them if they wanted to do this and they said a resounding yes. But I looked inside myself and I knew I wanted to get married and have a family.

Sophie Tucker had a remarkable career that was way before her time. Tell me about this.

She was the first person in history on the Vaudeville tour would get out and about at 9 a.m. shake hands and get people’s addresses. By the time she was done, she had some 250,000 names and addresses cataloged – way before there was Facebook, there was Sophie’s book. As a businessman, I connected to that part of her story. She passed all of this on to Mae West and Mae did her act. Mae was the first one to do it on film. Sophie never made any films, because she was too old to be the sex pot. And she passed on all of her wisdom to show business legends Mary Martin, Ethel Merman, Frank Sinatra, and others.

Did you ever think about what if you never met?

Sue Ecker: We have been married for 48 years and have known each other for 50 years. Some way or another we were destined to be together. We fit like a glove. We both have the same mindset about a lot of things.

Lloyd Ecker: Every anniversary we write to Bette Midler and remind her that 50 years ago we got together at her concert and as a result we have three children and four grandchildren and Bette always writes back. She has a wonderful non-profit that plants Cherry Trees and does other rehab projects around New York City, and we have been part of this for years since we reconnected with her.

Could you tell that Bette Midler was talented during that first college show?

Lloyd Ecker: She came on stage that night after I introduced her. I was desperate to get a concert for Ithaca College because Cornell had a 20,000-seat auditorium and ours was much smaller. They had Paul Simon, Elton john, and Jethro Tull. And despite all my efforts, I couldn’t book anything for six months. In October 1973, a New York producer called to tell me that a young lady had a new album a week before and she had a cancellation in Buffalo. I asked Susan to be my date. As soon as I said Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome, Bette Milder it was magic.

Sue Ecker:  Bette had us from the first note. When I watched her there was no question that she would rise to the top. The charisma was there. She is amazing and will always hold a special place in our hearts.

Ryann Redmond as Sophie Tucker and Daniel Lopez as Frank Westphal.  Photo Credit: Joan Marcus.

How do you feel about the show’s leading lady, Ryann Redmond?

Sue Ecker: She is Sophie Tucker incarnate. Her comic sense is off the wall.

Lloyd Ecker:  Her voice is shaking the rafters from the first song. When we first started reading the scrapbooks that gave us the impetus for this show, Ryann was 10 years old. We read tons of Sophies through the years, all lovely actresses.  –

Sue Ecker: Ryann has something truly special. To get the comic sense you had with the voice she has nailed all of it. Everyone will experience this from the moment she sings the first note.

How are you enjoying New Hope?

Sue Ecker: It’s such a quaint and beautiful little town with such friendly people. We go to all the charming little restaurants and they ask what we are up to and we say, “We came to put on your show.”

What future are you hoping for this show?

Sue Ecker: We have our sights on Broadway, regional, and touring; we want the whole gamut. Now that the show is running, we are getting a great response and we are getting requests from theaters. They love that it’s fun with a lot of tap-dancing music and jokes. And you can take the whole family to it. We hope to add a few more cast members and want to go to the incubators that send plays to Broadway. We want to take it to the next level. The Bucks County Playhouse has been a wonderful start!

Lloyd Ecker: This is a new old-timey musical. I hope that after this show is running for 20 years approaching the record of Wicked that we make into a film, and I have already mapped out 8 seasons for HBO, Apple, or Amazon. And that we get Bette to play the older Sophie. And then we have dinner again with Bette after she wins the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical.

Ryann Redmond as Sophie Tucker in “Last of the Red Hot Mamas.” Photo Credit: Joan Marcus.

You have been working on Sophie Tucker-related projects for decades. Does it ever get old?

Sue Ecker. Nope. This is our baby. We want to see each performance. So, go to the back of the theater and say hello if you see us…just like they did with Sophie.

For Tickets or More Information Go To:, call 215-862-2121 or visit the box office at 70 South Main Street, New Hope, PA.

Last of the Red Hot Mamas plays through July 27  on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings at 7:30 p.m. with matinees on Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday at 1:30 p.m. 

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