Menopause The Musical is still hysterical and fresh after 15 years and multiple thousands of performances. I use the word ‘hysterical’ on purpose: for many women who have gone through the mood swings accompanying ‘the change,’ every melody, mixed up lyric and repartee speak to a shared experience. Those shared experiences have, for many, lead to a stronger feeling of camaraderie and liberation from some of the expectations they felt as younger women.
The musical follows four women who meet in the lingerie department of Bloomingdale’s in New York City. To illustrate how going through the change unites all women, Menopause creator Jeanie Linders offers up four diverse characters. The characters don’t have names; instead they are identified by the stereotypes they portray. Professional Woman (Linda Boston), Earth Mother (Megan Cavanagh), Iowa Housewife (Annette Houlihan Verdolino), and Soap Star (Cherie Price) bond over their shared experiences of hot flashes, night sweats, and mood swings while exploring the department store.
The performers are all strong singers and comedic actresses and the chemistry between them makes it easy to believe they are friends. During the course of the evening, they bring in the audience as a fifth member of their self-empowerment team.
The show is consistently so funny (to those of a certain age), it is hard to nail down anyone’s ‘best’ performance or the ‘best’ song. Just a few of the highlights include “The Great Pretender,” with the professional woman dashing to the conference room and, upon arriving, forgetting the purpose of her mission. The Iowa housewife chimes in with issues of pretending there is no brain collapse when she can’t remember anything. This segues into ‘Sane and Normal Girls,’ (“California Girls”) and ‘Thank You Doctor’ (“Help Me Rhonda”) during which the women show their “little helpers,” ranging from prozac to herbal remedies, then form an air band to exhibit their bad ass nature once they found relief.
During “My Thighs,” (“My Guy”), Iowa Housewife Verdolino, is hysterical as she flashes her girdle while singing that everything she eats goes directly to her thighs and ends up looking like cottage cheese. Everyone can take heart from this great homage to cellulite.
The literal and figurative climax of the show is a series of songs, starting with “Good Vibrations,” sung by Earth Mother and Soap Star, in which the Iowa housewife is introduced to the wonders of bedroom toys. This is followed by Professional Woman dressed as Tina Turner, singing a knockoff of “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” including lyrics like “who needs romance with your own private dance” while singing into a toy with questionable likeness to a microphone. Iowa housewife gives a pean to her own toy in “Only You.” The ensemble joins together in celebrating a “New Attitude.”
The evening ends with all four characters swathed in black and far too many rhinestones sharing a kick line with audience members while singing “This is Your Day.”
This touring production of Menopause highlights the power of live theater. This is really a “box” production. Every one or two nights the same cast members, using the same canned music written by Alan J. Plado, and the same choreography by Daria Lynne Melendez, perform their schtick for the umpteenth time. Why not just watch it on-line? Because this box happens to be one of those light blue with white ribbon boxes from Tiffany’s. The actresses dig deep to build camaraderie with the audience over mostly shared experiences. The few men in the audience were of an age that they, too, had probably lived the whole experience from a different perspective. The shared experience is all that seems to matter.
Running Time: One hour and 40 minutes, with no intermission.
Menopause: The Musical is presented by GFour Productions at the Hylton Performing Arts Center – 10960 George Mason Circle, in Manassas, VA an dhas one more performance tonight-February 5th at 8 pm. For tickets, purchase them online or at the box office before the performance.