“That was fun.”
“Oh gosh, what was that line about [insert: hot flashes, saggy boobs, errant husbands, and so on]?”
Then they break into the old R&B chestnut “Chain of Fools,” but this time singing: “Change, change, change… change, change, change… change, change… change… change… change of mood.”
More musical revue than musical, since the plot and character development are non-existent, Menopause is good cathartic fun, especially if you go with a girlfriend who’s just come through “the change.” Though it’s a grab-your-gal-pal-and-go kind of event, with women making over 95 percent of the audience, it’s a grand way for middle-aged men to get a little essential education.
With a half-dozen parody songs of boomer tunes from the ‘60s to ‘80s, the revue explores such menopausal milestones as hot flashes, night sweats, forgetfulness, and mood swings. Mix in the feminine staples of children, husbands, and mother issues, along with the usual aging complaints of wrinkles, flabbiness, poor stamina, and not enough sex.
Menopause covers a cross-cultural day when a naive, tightly wound Iowa Housewife and cheery, daft Earth Mother from the Midwest, both doing the tourist scene at Bloomingdales, encounter an urban bold Professional Woman and self-absorbed Soap Star. The quartet spends the day together shopping and eating, zipping in and out of bathrooms and dressing rooms, all while warbling songs and scooting about in cutely self-conscious choreography.
To commemorate the hot flashes that plaque the menopausal woman’s search for sleep, the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive” and “Night Fever” gets lyrically tweaked into “Stayin’ Awake” and “Night Sweatin’.” The ‘60s pop chestnut “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” becomes the wry lament “My Husband Sleeps Tonight,” because the wife certainly isn’t.
In an ode to pharmaceuticals, the cast warbles they just want to be “Sane and Normal Girls” to the Beach Boys tune “California Girls.” In “Thank You, Doctor” aka “Help Me, Rhonda,” they happily regale: “My doctor prescribed a pill, that eliminated my urge to kill.”
R&B is plentiful on the musical menu, and Linda Boston, who perfected frank sassiness in her one-woman show Moms Mabley: The Naked Truth, has an energy that carries the show and finds its happy place in the lusty, black-lingerie finale.
Three actresses from North Texas hold down the other roles. The esteemed Linda K. Leonard just got off a run as our noble and witty former governor in Ann from Stage West. Yet here she is as the Iowa Housewife excelling in wordless slapstick trying to fit into a bustier 10 times too small—and nearly succeeding—then singing a reworked ““Only You” and “the magic that you do” into a pink, dildo-shaped microphone. Worth the price of admission.
Vocalist/actor Karri Atchley of Arlington has been holding down the role of the vain and fretful Soap Star for this section of the tour since 2008 turning in some impressive vocal turns. Fun comedic chops in Brenda Lee’s C&W “I’m Flashing” done as “I’m Sorry” complete with audience schtick. Janis Roeton has been manifesting the Earth Mother since 2006 and merges her perky history as New Christy Minstrel with a daft stoner vibe.
Menopause the Musical, written by Jeanie Linders, is now a commercial juggernaut with marketing tie-ins to estrogen-pill peddlers and such, touring companies that ceaselessly roam the world, and a house gig at Harrah’s Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas that is now the longest running scripted show in the city’s history. But it has raised significant funds for ovarian cancer research.
It’s not profound, revels in clichés, brings nothing new to the conversation about women, and is more than a little tawdry. A sketch show with top production values. Yet the venue gets packed with laughing females, and that’s a good thing. Women are underrepresented at comedy clubs and concerts. Many are still embarrassed by graphic sex and language. (Hint, ladies: You can go to Backdoor Comedy Club.) Menopause provides a safe place for sisterhood and sympathetic laughter. If you’re female and over 50, you’re going to complain about all this anyway. Why not set back and let someone else do it for you for a while?