Written by Jeanie Linders as a tribute to all women suffering the “change,” Ms. Linders takes well-known songs from the 1950’s through the 1980’s such as “Heat Wave,” and “Stayin’ Alive” and voices all of the physical and emotional issues that middle-aged women face, some worse than others, during menopause. The result is a side-splitting expose with four women from different walks of life (The Professional Woman, The Soap Star, The Iowa Housewife, The Earth Mother) finding common ground while encountering similar issues in various departments in NYC’s famed Bloomingdales on 59thStreet and Lexington Avenue. Middle-Aged Women sweating in the audience can all recognize themselves in one or more of these women.
Starting out somewhat slowly with a catfight over a bra in the lingerie section, the musical then moves quickly, with the audience laughing and enjoying themselves, from song to song while the women become friends and comrades, discussing the change of life and how it relates to sex (or no sex), sleep or lack thereof, hot flashes, grey hair, and weight gain to name a few. Don’t look for significant insights, engaging characters, empowering quotes or an honest view of the hormonal changes that occur during menopause. The musical is meant to poke exaggerated fun at one of life’s most embarrassing topics. And it definitely succeeds.
Donna Huntley (The Professional Woman) who has been performing in “Menopause the Musical” on and off since 2004, has an outstanding voice, belting out tunes set to Aretha Franklin’s “Chain, Chain, Chain” (aka, “Change, Change, Change”), “The Great Pretender” and shares the stage with the others in songs such as “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” and “California Girls.” Huntley’s spot-on impression of Tina Turner in “What’s Love Got to Do With It” is one of the highlights of the evening. Her voice is spectacular and more than once I found myself wondering where else I might go to see her perform.
Megan Cavanagh, best known for her role as the shy and talented Marla Hooch in the 1992 movie “A League of Their Own,” portrays the delightfully funny Zen-focused Earth Mother where the juxtaposition of her hippie-like persona perusing through the upscale floors of Bloomingdales lets us laugh with her, not at her. Her constant attempt to use meditation to ward off her mood swings and her timing in the café as she tries to read the menu’s small print is genius. She, in my opinion, has the best comedic role in the group and she delivers with style leaving us wanting for more.
Roberta Wall who has been performing in the musical on and off since 2003, plays the oldest in the group and starts out a bit lackluster compared to the others until she goes from endeavoring to buy grandmotherly nightgowns to her outrageously funny attempt to fit into a teen-sized negligee. Her rendition of “My Guy, “paradoxically delivered as “My Thighs” is hilarious along with “Good Vibrations” as she takes the advice of the others in managing her own sexuality. The use of microphones as vibrators here is as tacky as it gets, but Wall does it proud. When she comes clean about taking medication for depression, the audience just about loses it as the other three women embarrassingly confess the names of the medication, which they also take to combat their mood swings.
Debby Rosenthal is the aging Soap Star, aghast at the person she is seeing in the mirror, is singularly focused on impressing the others with stories of her young paramours. A bit of over-the-top dancing may make you cringe, but it lends itself to her character trying desperately to maintain her youthful countenance. Still, she pulls off singing and dancing to Irving Berlin’s “Heat Wave” with panache and while reprising the song “Hot Flash” a number of times, even sits on the lap of one of the men in the audience, whipping the crowd into a delighted frenzy as a result.
The set is a lovely duplication of the elevator foyer in Bloomingdales and while the choreography is as cliché as the lyrics it only serves to enhance the merriment of the 90-minute show. The four women have obviously performed these roles together as their familiarity is evident, assisting the crew in moving set pieces during scene transitions smoothly.
If you conclude that this evening is going to be like attending a “chick flick” and you should leave your male counterparts at home, think again. The men in the audience were rolling in the aisles as they recognized their wives, mothers’, sisters and friends in the four talented women who take us on their journey.
“Menopause the Musical” was trashed by the critics when it originally debuted, and I can understand why theater snobs would do so. After all, the dialogue and lyrics are cheesy, and the storyline is really just a loose effort to move the production from musical number to musical number all in the name of women’s empowerment. But the response of the audience through howls of laughter from beginning to end, a standing ovation and women of all ages running to the stage when invited by the cast should tell you that the show’s real intent is to bring a little-talked-about yet relatable time of life to a place where both men and women can share in the hilarity of the moment. Go see it with a light-hearted attitude and a desire to enjoy a fun evening watching truly talented performers succeeding effortlessly to entertain you.
MENOPAUSE The Musical continues on stage at the WBT in Elmsford through March 24th. For information or tickets, call 914 592-2222.