BWW Reviews: MENOPAUSE, THE MUSICAL Heats Up the Hanna
As the audience was streaming out of the Hanna Theatre, many stopped at the merchandise table in the lobby to purchase t-shirts. Those garments told the tale of the production. The pink colored attire was emblazoned with such phrases as: "I'm Still Hot, It Just Comes in Flashes," "All About Me," "Cranky, Crabby, Hard to Please," and "Beware of Mood Swings."
Yes, that about sums up the show, which centers on four women, wandering the many floors of Bloomingdale's Department Store in New York, as they sing about menopause and its many manifestations.
The quartet sings 25 songs, all parodies of well known vocals, in the ninety-minute show which is staged without an intermission.
"My Guy" becomes "My Thighs," a lament of the addition of heft to the upper legs as one ages. "Puff, the Magic Dragon" is transformed into "Puff, My God, I'm Draggin'." "The Great Pretender" laments the loss of memory and how women come to fake that they can't remember an acquaintance's name. "A Sign of the Times" becomes "A Song of the Times" which recounts the startling fact that in middle age, a woman realizes she has become her mother.
Take-offs on "SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER," Cher, girl groups of the '50s and '60s, and the popping of Prozac, a woman's coping choice of that age, highlight the era of these women.
Complaints about stress, nerves, bladder control, wrinkles, flushing, not sleeping, chocolate binges, and night sweats, had the largely middle-aged female audience hysterical. (A quick count found about 10 men in the assemblage. Most males looked bemused by the howls of the women and confused by the references.)
"MENOPAUSE, THE MUSICAL" opened on March 28, 2001 in Orlando, Florida. An Off-Broadway production opened in 2002 and ran for 1500 performances. Then the show hit the road, not only in the US, but had companies in Australia, Canada, Israel, New Zealand and the U.K. It's been seen by over eleven million people.
As the producers state, "MENOPAUSE THE MUSICAL" encourages a healthy dialogue about issues of aging and women's health and provide a unique opportunity to raise awareness with female audiences."
This is the second production of the show in Cleveland. The first was staged in the now closed 14th Street Theatre. That venue, which found the audience up-close and personal with the performers, made for an intimate setting. The Hanna's proscenium stage, where the show is now running, caused a slight disconnect between the audience and the singers. This was somewhat compensated for by having the cast wander into the audience for some of the numbers.
The cast, Dyan Bender (Iowa Housewife), Donna J. Huntley (Professional Woman), Paula Kline-Messner (Soap Star) and June Lang (Earth Mother) are all show veterans. Some were in the original Cleveland cast, some appeared in various other productions.
The entire cast was excellent. Zaftig June Lange, who handles most of the self-deprecating laugh lines, was an instant audience favorite. Huntley has the most trained voice and used her vocal sounds well. Each had at least one highlight song.
Capsule judgement: "MENOPAUSE, THE MUSICAL" is a delightful portrayal of the "Change, Change, Change" that women of a certain age go through, that consists of "Hot Flashes," as they realize that "I'm No Babe," and requires a "New Attitude." Do you have to be a "mature" women to appreciate the goings on? No, but from observing the opening night audience, it helps! (Don't forget to bring a fan if you are in the "change" age group.
Tickets for the show, which runs through February 2, 2014 can be ordered by calling 216-241-6000 or going to www.playhousesquare.org.