All right, I know you're skeptical. A musical about menopause? How weird and potentially gross, right? This was pretty much what was going through my head as I hauled my 24-year-old self over to 2nd Street Theatre to see Menopause The Musical. Having never personally experienced "The Change," I had some serious doubts. In a theater filled with the stereotypical Menopause crowd - almost all women (there were exactly seven men, 11 if you count the employees) nearly twice my age, I definitely felt a little out of place, that is until the play started.
Director Maralyn Thoma guides Lyryn Cate, Rachel Deegan, Anne Du Fresne and Jackie Johnson in a musical comedy that makes hot flashes, memory loss, overactive bladders, vision problems, mood swings and wacky libidos seem horrifically funny and fabulous.
Written by Jeanie Linders, the musical has been translated in at least six languages and performed in over 11 countries and 200 cities in the US since March of 2001. It's been said that Linders wrote the musical "after a bottle of wine and a hot flash" while Linders says she definitely recalls standing in front of an open freezer in an evening gown singing "Hot Flash" to Rod Stewarts' "Hot Legs."
The plot is simple and part of what makes the musical great. Four middle-aged women meet by chance while fighting over a black lacey bra at Bloomingdales in New York City. The four become friends as they bond over their shared experiences that come with "The Change." Cate plays the "Earth Mother," a hippie from the '60s (a time she can't remember, naturally); Deegan plays the "Professional Woman," a no-nonsense business authority who finds herself forgetting exactly why she's just stormed into the board room; Du Fresne plays the "Soap Star" (and is also the show's Co-Director), a slightly washed-up actress in denial about her age; and Johnson plays the "Iowa Housewife," a kooky (and slightly oblivious) wife of a funeral director from the Hawkeye State.
The acting and singing by these four ladies is right on. They are hilarious and believable, sing on key and clearly are having the time of their lives. Johnson is so believable as a spacey Midwest housewife that when she doesn't have the audience roaring with laughter, they're probably wondering if she's like her character in real life. Cate holds her own throughout the performance with her strong and clear voice and one-liners while Du Fresne is the epitome of an overly dramatic aging soap opera star and brings the perfect blend of sex appeal and humor to her character. Deegan proves she can really belt out the tunes and basically brings the house down with her rendition of Tina Turner's "What's Love Got To Do With It" (which she does in a complete Turner outfit, wig, dance moves and all.)
Half the fun of the musical is listening to songs like "Stayin' Alive" and "Night Fever" get changed into songs about "Stayin' Awake" and "Night Sweats," "California Girls" and "Help Me Rhonda" become elegies about the mental effects of menopause in "I Wish We All Could Be Sane and Normal" and "Thank You Doctor."
The set design is remarkably ingenious and well done. Since the entire musical takes place in a department store, we see the restrooms, makeup counters, changing rooms and mezzanine, all with the addition or removal of about two items. Meredith Arnoldt dresses each character in the exact way you would imagine, and the beauty parlor scene with bubblegum pink overcoats and black hair bonnets is a very memorable visual.
I once sat through an entire production of The Vagina Monologues in an effort to be a good friend and support a cause. Holy uncomfortableness! But Menopause The Musical is nothing like The Vagina Monologues. Yes, there is encouragement to masturbate, but there is no vocal demonstration of a triple orgasm or a fiery discussion about angry vaginas. You can be a man and still enjoy this musical. You don't have to have gone through menopause to find it funny. It's not weird and gross, it's witty, the songs are fantastic and you'll like it.
Menopause The Musical
8pm Wednesday-Saturday, 3pm Sunday until August 30. 2nd Street Theatre, 220 NE Lafayette Ave. 312-9626. $25 adults, $20 students and seniors (62 and up).