BWW Review: MENOPAUSE THE MUSICAL at Ogunquit Playhouse
Here's the first thing I thought about when I heard about Menopause the Musical at the Ogunquit Playhouse.
Knowing that Sally Struthers, who played Gloria on the classic television series, All In The Family, graces the Ogunquit Playhouse stage regularly, I was reminded of the episode where Edith Bunker is going through "the change." Here's the dialogue between Gloria and her husband, Michael, and Edith and Archie Bunker.
Archie: I know all about your women's troubles there, Edith, but when I had the hernia that time, I didn't make you wear the truss!
Michael: Come on, Archie!
Archie: No, no, no, Edith! If you're gonna have the change of life, you gotta do it right now! I'm gonna give you just thirty seconds. Now, come on, change!
I am not sure Archie would appreciate the wild humor that runs rampant in a show that pokes fun at a women's most challenging time of life, the highs and lows of menopause. But that's the gist of this stage musical that covers the entire spectrum for menopausal women including hot flashes, weak bladders, an aging body, forgetfulness, and the arrival of wrinkles, in a world for women that still want to remain young in spirit, vibrant and sexually active.
There's nothing too complicated about the premise for this show. Four women meet at a lingerie sale at a department store and soon discover that they are kindred spirits in a shared experience as they each find their way through "the change."
The Professional Woman (Anise Ritchie) tries to navigate the business world that keeps her challenged, the Soap Star (Kathy St. George) is about to be fired from her television gig in favor of younger, more attractive woman, Earth Mother (Melanie Souza) tries to mediate her way through her current struggles while reminiscing about her wild times in the 1960s, and Iowa Housewife (Roberta B. Wall) experiences the troubles of plus size shopping while convincing the others that women her age still have sex in Iowa.
In this stage version, there's a Hostess played by Cindy Williams, the television icon known best for her role as Shirley Feeney in the sitcom, LaVerne and Shirley.
As they roam about the department store, they abruptly break out in recognizable rock tunes, particularly from the 1960s, but with spoof titles and lyrics. Puff, My God I'm Draggin extols the virtues of hardly being able to complete a workout, The Great Pretender displays the challenges of spontaneous memory loss, and various forms of I'm Flashing depicts those unpredictable moments when the body temperature seems to rise uncontrollably. The numbers range from cute to corny with occasional choreography and a few sight gags.
Other favorites include California Girls that becomes a platform for shared pill popping in "wish we all could be sane and normal girls," "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" is transformed into "In the guest room or on the sofa, my husband sleeps tonight, and the driving rhythm of Stayin' Alive is more like "staying awake" for these aging women.
This diverse cast creates a sisterhood as they realize that menopause is a shared experience that doesn't have to be suffered in silence. For the audience, particularly women who can relate to the subject, the show is one big laugh fest that tickles every funny bone in a 90-minute intermission free performance.
This is a great ensemble production where each performer gets a moment or two to shine individually. Of note is Ritchie's rendition of Tina Turner in What's Love Got to Do With It as Wall discovers the wonders of sex toys. St. George is a firecracker in I'm Having a Hot Flash.
The show is undoubtedly targeted to women who can relate to the menopause experience but there were quite a few men in the audience that enjoyed the rambunctious antics. I'm not so sure if the experience was as enjoyable for the younger crowd. I think it helps if you have firsthand knowledge of "the change."
There's an earth-shattering finish to the show when all women in the audience are invited on stage to do a menopause kick line. At this Sunday matinee, there were about 100+ women on stage enjoying the fun of being on the Ogunquit stage with the likes of Cindy Williams, center stage in the spotlight.
I guess theater doesn't get much better than this.
Photo by Gary Ng