BWW Reviews: MENOPAUSE THE MUSICAL is a Rip-Roaring Good Time for Men and Women, Young and Old
MENOPAUSE THE MUSICAL, which opened at the Warner Theatre for three performances through Saturday, June 14th, is a 90-minute party and a celebration of song, dance, and life, as well as a rip-roaring laugh-fest for both sexes and young to old adults. The touring production at the Warner, directed by Seth Greenleaf and produced by GFour Productions, which has also produced such hits as MATILDA THE MUSICAL and THE BOOK OF MORMON, features an ensemble cast of four, all ladies with brilliant comic timing, a whole lot of energy, and the physical attributes of ordinary women.
A musical that celebrates hot flashes? Why not? To paraphrase one of the characters in MENOPAUSE THE MUSICAL, she sweats so much,she can create her own pool.
Kathi Glist, one of the founders of GFour, says that the show provides "Humor Replacement Therapy" and she is VERY right. The songs (score and arrangements by Alan J. Plado, original music supervision by CT Hollis) are send-ups of popular melodies from the 1950's through the 1970's, but this show is no old-fashioned period piece. (Special thanks to my rabbi for providing the groaner in the previous sentence). It takes on serious topics, such as depression, age discrimination, and the trials and tribulations of being in the sandwich generation, and cuts them down to size through laughter. The audience, in which women outnumbered men by an order of magnitude, clapped and howled as they saw themselves or their significant others, mothers, or daughters on the stage, dealing with very familiar issues. (OK, so maybe deciding whether to buy a microphone isn't that common an issue - and no, I'm not going to spoil the joke by revealing why anyone is microphone-shopping - but everything else is certainly familiar).
I suppose that it's possible for someone to become offended by the rampant stereotyping regarding forgetfulness, hot flashes, and foul tempers, but the words of the late Maya Angelou would surely apply to such an individual: "I don't trust anyone who doesn't laugh." Laugh you will, at Jeanie Linders's book and lyrics, at the antics of the four characters - strangers at the beginning and close friends at the end - who meet at Bloomingdale's arguing over a black lace bra. The characters, whose names are never revealed, are as different as it's possible to be. The "professional woman" (Sandra Benton) holds a stressful job and, on the surface, seems to have things together. The "soap star" (Kimberly VanBiesbrouck) lies about her age and keeps hearing rumors that she will be replaced by a younger woman. The "Earth mother" (Ingrid Cole), a vegan, has lived with her boyfriend for 25 years and does a lot of panicked relaxation breathing when things get too out of control. The "Iowa Housewife" (Liz Hyde), the only one not cursed with hot flashes, will do anything to arouse the interest of her always-sleepy husband. Yet they all have something major in common: All women of a "certain age," they're suffering through menopause, each trying to hang onto her dignity, regain her formerly svelte figure, and view herself as a worthy individual.
Each of the four talented performers excels at humorous facial expressions and none hesitates to make the audience laugh by behaving in highly undignifiedways. Liz Hyde has one hilarious scene in which she tries on a sexy body suit. More accurately, she TRIES to try on a sexy body suit. Tugging and pulling, her contortions resemble those of Charlie Chaplin, if he had ever encountered lace and spandex. At various points, two of the characters descend into the audience and engage some of the spectators - on Friday night, one pretended to pick up a hapless middle-aged gentleman, undoubtedly attending with his wife.
It is almost impossible not to clap and dance along with the performers as they play instruments consisting of kitchen implements while singing "Oh, she's a witch, oh she's a witch" instead of "Ameemowet, Ameemowet" in a send-up of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight." Each bouncy number has plenty of clever lyrics and deliberately clumsy choreography (original choreography by Patty Bender, choreography supervision by Daria Lynne Melendez) to keep the audience laughing. The disco parody of SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER was my favorite number, but it really is hard to choose because they're all so funny.
Other than the subject matter itself, there is NOTHING serious about this show, and theater-goers looking for a feel-good boost need not worry that any of the characters' stories will end as a MARLEY AND ME tearjerker. Kathi Glist, one of the founders of GFour, recently told Broadway World, "Surely, [the show is] not Shakespeare or Sondheim, but it speaks directly to its audience members."
Maybe if Sondheim or Shakespeare had been female, they would have written this don't-miss send-up.
Although the on-stage antics all but overshadow everything else, the department store set and the costumes (designed by Sue Hill) enhance the mood. The rest of the credits include Jenny Jacobs (production stage manager), Jeffrey D. Holmes (assistant stage manager), Heatherlyn Egan (technical director/lighting supervisor), Kate Wecker (audio supervisor), Ryan A. Patridge (lighting designer), Steve Shapiro (audio designer), and Christopher R. Wood (company manager).
MENOPAUSE THE MUSICAL will appear at the Warner Theatre, 513 13th Street NW
Washington, DC 20004, Tel: 202-783-4000, Fax: 202-783-0204, www.warnertheatredc.com, for two more performances, on Saturday, June 14, 2014 at 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Tickets are $35-$65. Note that there are no elevators in the theater.
Afterwards, the production is moving on to Baltimore, where it will play at the Modell Performing Center at the Lyric on Wednesday, June 18, 2014 and Thursday, June 19, 2014. If you miss the show in Washington it's definitely worth the schlep north. The full touring schedule is available at http://www.menopausethemusical.com/ or http://www.gfourproductions.com/ .