BWW Reviews: Cellulite Thighs, Raging Hormones and Moody Blues in MENOPAUSE THE MUSICAL
According to Archie Bunker, lovable star curmudgeon of the 1970s hit TV sitcom All in the Family, the "change of life" should happen in 30 seconds or less. His wife Edith's endearing irritability nearly drove him to The Edge, and upon learning the root cause as the "silent passage" of change that all women go through, he emphatically declared, with the frustration of millions of men behind him: "If you're gonna do it, do it right now!"
Hot flashes. Chocolate cravings. Loss of memory. Sexual highs and lows. All are tolerable in the normal ebbs and flows of life, but to cram all of them into a single day, a single hour, a single work meeting, a single date-night, a single family BBQ - can nearly drive a woman to insanity. This, simply put, is the change of life. And there is no better comedic representation for all that a female suffers through, endures, and must adapt to than Menopause The Musical.
Originally written by Jeanie Linders, the musical production follows four diverse women, each bringing a very unique personality trait to "the change". The women meet in the lingerie department of Bloomingdale's, engaged in a battle over the last lacy, black bra. They fall into casual conversation and move progressively through the many departments of Bloomingdale's, facing one menopausal challenge after another. Menopause itself settles in as women tend to reach a finer age in life, and it is the typical challenges that come with this later stage of age that, coupled with the symptoms of menopause, create a hysterical and tender tribute to the fabulous forties and fifties. Bladder control, weight gain, loss of vision and hearing, wrinkles, lack of exercise - these four women learn very quickly that they are anything but alone in facing each of these daily tributes to age.
What makes this production wonderful, truly, are the songs. The lyrical parodies to the great hits and popular dance tunes from the baby boomer era, including Stayin' Awake, My Husband Sleeps Tonight, Don't Say Nothing Bad About my Body, and Puff, My God, I'm Draggin', are a riot and enable each of the characters to truly elaborate upon the miserable-ness they're enduring, the complete havoc "the change" is racking on their bodies, and the ridiculously absurd, and seemingly out-of-nowhere, alternation they have had to their personalities. As one of the women, a sheltered housewife from the fields of Iowa, humorously puts it: My doctor gave me a pill, to suppress the urge to kill.
If you're looking for plot, this is not your musical. The audience learns very little about each of the characters, their backgrounds, and their families. But we still never feel at a loss. We're too busy laughing to really care that we know, truly, nothing about these women. And that, in itself, is the beauty of this musical. It makes ever so clear that, as a woman, you need only know that your fellow female is also suffering through "the change" and there is an instantaneous bond that unites you together. You don't need to know her hometown, or whether she has any children. You just know that she can relate to you. That her thighs also have cellulite. That she also can't read a restaurant menu by candlelight. And that's enough. And for the audience, that's all we need as well. Not only can we relate to each female on stage, but we can relate to every female in the audience.
Credit must be given to Annette Houlihan Verdolino and Kimberly Ann Harris in this production. Verdolino does an incredible job portraying the role of a sheltered housewife with a subtly emerging wild side. She makes the character truly lovable and her "break-out" scenes are absolutely some of the more hilarious moments of the show. Every female has disastrously tried on lingerie - Verdolino makes us want to shout about it from the rooftops instead of cowering in the dressing room in shamE. Harris is a phenomenal vocal talent. She carries many of the musical numbers with a bang, a boom, and more than enough va-va-va-voom! Her rendition of Tina Turner's "What's Love Got To Do With It" brought the house down.
Menopause The Musical is sheer fun and delight and something every woman should see with the females in her life. The biggest take-away from the evening, however, is the show's long-standing commitment to gathering contributions to the fight against ovarian cancer, for which it staged a national fundraising tour. And in an additional effort to match good theater with good will, the show continues to raise awareness of menopause-related issues and collect funds for the cause through the sale of souvenir "hot flash fans" - one of the hottest commodities of the night. The stage lights were flashing, the brilliant costumes were flashing, cameras were flashing - and, fittingly, most of the women in the audience were (hot) flashing.