Sunday, 1 September 2013

Review: 'Menopause the Musical' will make you laugh 'til you sweat

By JANE HOLAHAN, Entertainment Editor

Before I begin this review, I should tell you something.

I am going through menopause. Hot flashes, insomnia and forgetfulness are close companions these days.

Normally, my health status is my own business, but this is a review of the new Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre show, "Menopause the Musical."
So I figured I better let you know I am biased. I came in ready to laugh. No, needing to laugh. Those hot flashes are killers.

So take my review with a grain of salt. Consider me predisposed to like the four ladies who commiserate with each other in Bloomingdale's as they sing songs — parodies of Baby Boomer-era hits — about "the change."

Biased as I may be, I will say that everyone around me was laughing loudly too, including plenty of men.

And some women were laughing so hard, they were practically crying.

There's no way not to laugh watching this show, thanks to a terrific cast and a subject that is overflowing with potential.

Jeanie Linders, who wrote the book and lyrics, understands that women don't get the chance to rant and rave about menopause enough.

It hijacks our lives, sometimes for several years, yet for way too long we were supposed to just endure "the silent passage."

But the four characters in this show don't do that. For 90 minutes (no intermission, thus no bathroom break, ladies) they vent, commiserate and let loose.

Topics in the menopause repertoire include: hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, memory loss, mood shifts, having to go to the bathroom all the time, weight gain, and all those "lost in space" moments we endure when we get to that certain point in our lives.

And there is one hilarious segment about mothers who can't seem to fathom that their little girls are old enough to be going through menopause.

The characters are purposely seen as archetypes.

There is the Professional Woman (Whitney Hayes), who is always ruining her power suits with her overwhelming hot flashes and night and day sweats; Soap Star (Erin Fish), who is vain and worried about getting older; Earth Mother (Megan Opalinski), who loves talking about the 1960s and tries to meditate her way through menopause (it's not working); and Iowa Housewife (Eleonore Thomas), a sweetly demure mother of two who lets loose on her trip to the Big Apple.

The women meet at Bloomingdale's fighting over a black bra and soon realize they are all in the middle of menopause.

The show doesn't really have a plot. Instead, each segment takes the women to another floor of the department store, including several bathrooms, of course, the restaurant, the hair salon and the lingerie department.

On each floor, they discuss some of their symptoms and sing funny and clever parody songs about their plight.

The songs will make you laugh out loud.

Some titles: "Puff, My God, I'm Draggin' "; "(Change, Change, Change) Change of Life"; "Looking for Food (In All the Wrong Places)"; and "Stayin' Awake/Night Sweatin'."

All four actresses have strong voices and do a fantastic job with the music, which, for the first time at the Dutch Apple, is recorded.

The show is a co-production with GFour Productions and is one of several touring the country. The director, Seth Greenleaf — who, despite being a man, does a great job with the show — is with GFour, not the Dutch Apple.

The cast is first rate, but I have to give a special shout-out to Thomas, who gets the chance to show off some amazing physical comedy skills when her character attempts to try on some lingerie. And her Iowa Housewife is probably written as the sweetest and funniest of the four.

Hayes has some unforgettable moments (mostly dealing with those hot flashes), but she brings down the house late in the show with her rendition of "What's Love Got to Do With It."

And Opalinski gets a lot of laughs as she tries to balance her warm Earth-Mother persona with the reality of getting no sleep.

Fish played the Soap Star too broadly, but as the show went on, it mattered less and less

That's because "Menopause the Musical" isn't interested in digging deep or getting serious. There are no Oprah moments here.

And that is just fine.

Everyone looks like they are having fun, which adds a wonderful fizz to the performances and the show.

Things get a little bawdy, especially when the Iowa Housewife lets loose, with a little help from her new friends.

But ladies, if you are of a certain age you will definitely want to see this show. And bring the men in your lives along.

Sure, they don't share our plight (the parody song "My Husband Sleeps Tonight" sums it up well), but they'll get to laugh, too.
"Menopause the Musical" runs through Oct. 5 at the Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre, 510 Centerville Road.

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