BWW Review: MENOPAUSE THE MUSICAL at the Welk Resort Theatre
Menopause the Musical is set in New York's Bloomingdale's department store where four women with different backgrounds, but similar unwelcome symptoms of growing older, run into each other while shopping and begin to share their experiences.
The musical's success depends on wry humor and nostalgia for pop songs from the 1950s through 80s. An overture precedes 23 tunes arranged as solos or for varied combinations of singers. Playwright Jeanie Linders left melodies intact, but rewrote the lyrics to fit the work's overriding theme: getting old is no fun, might as well laugh about what we can't avoid.
The play debuted in 2001 in Orlando, Florida and moved to Off-Broadway the following year, where it played until 2006. There have been many productions since all over the United States and in many other countries. The longest running production has been attracting theater goers in Las Vegas for 17 years.
Menopause the Musical has a cast of four singers in the Welk Resort Theatre's version. A small, electronically enhanced combo backs them. Elieen Bowman plays the soap star, Broadway veteran Melinda Gilb the Iowa housewife, Bets Malone the hippie Earth mother, and Anise Ritchie the professional woman. All have extensive theater credits and good voices.
Ritchie has appeared in several other productions of the musical and sung everything
from opera to gospel in her career. Gospel and R&B styles were her appropriate choices here, whether as part of the ensemble in "Change of Life," which is based on "Change, Change, Change," or in solos such as "I heard It Through the Grapevine." Her appearance and strong blues-tinged voice were perfect when she channeled Tina Turner in one of the show's highlights "What's Love Got to Do With it?"
Bowman was equally entertaining as Marilyn Monroe in "Hot Flash" set to the melody of "Heat Wave," though I wondered why no blond wig. While going through an exercise routine, Malone got big laughs with Puff, My God, I'm Draggin'," a takeoff based on "Puff the Magic Dragon." With new lyrics, the title of the song "Good Vibrations" becomes a double entendre that gives it new meaning for the older but still naïve Midwesterner played by Gilb. A short time later she emerges from one of the art-deco doors at the back of the set singing "Only You" with the prop mic in her loving hands clearly a stand-in for a different battery-driven device.
The show ends with the cast in black negligees having accepted and embraced growing older. Ten or so women from the audience joined the life-affirming finale for a not entirely synchronized imitation of The Rockettes that brought laughter and appreciative applause.
There isn't much of a plot and Menopause the Musical's good-natured treatment of hot flashes, weight gain, memory loss and mood swings is unsophisticated and sometimes repetitious, but most in the audience chuckled and laughed throughout the entire 90 minute performance. It's good to know one playwright can empathize. Misery, after all, does love company.The Welk Resort Theatre production of Menopause the Musical runs through June 2nd with performances at 1 pm and 8 pm Saturdays and 8 p.m Sundays.
Redesigned Welk Resort Theatre Lobby (Credit Ron Bierman)
Other photos, compliments of Welk Theatre.