Guest Author - Tammy Elizabeth Southin
Heading into its second decade, Menopause the Musical continues to dismantle old-fashioned attitudes about women and menopause. Jeannie C. Lenders, the play’s creator, first invited audiences to laugh at menopause in 2001 and women are still coming, and bringing their friends to share in the life phase that unites most women on some level.
Menopause the Musical takes a hold of ‘the change’ but putting women in charge of this still difficult subject. In the olden days of comedy, women were usually the brunt of male-centric jokes of the ‘my wife has gone mad’ variety. What Lenders has given audiences is the chance to take part in humor that is written by women, about women, for women. Women are laughing with women; the men are along for the ride.
The play itself is light on premise and elaborate staging, but not on the positive and empowering message. Four women from very different backgrounds; The Career Woman (Cynthia Jones), The Earth Mother (Pammie O’Bannon), The Soap Star (Cherie Price), and the Iowa Housewife (Carolynne Warren)* meet up at a Bloomingdale’s lingerie sale. After tussling over a black bar, the women discover that they share one thing in common: menopause.
The rest of the play follows the women through the department store as they find support while commiserating over hot flashes and mood swings. Classic hit songs recognizable to the mostly Baby Boomer audience but still appreciated by all ages are reworked to take aim at menopause with titles such as “Puff My God I’m Draggin,” and “Help Me Doctor.” Each song is an opportunity to release the long pent-up emotions of living with menopause and realizing that you are not as alone as you might have thought you were.
Each of the women brings her character to life by at first exaggerating the menopausal stereotypes, and then challenging women to look menopause straight in the eye without flinching. Unlike many plays where the audience feels somewhat distanced from the stage performers – actors refer to this invisible barrier as the fourth wall – watching Menopause the Musical feels more like you are right there in the store with the ladies.
There is something for virtually every audience member to identify with, from mourning lost looks and newfound pounds, while shedding the old idea that menopause is the end. During the finale when the women strut their stuff to “New Attitude” women are encouraged, maybe even dared, to think of menopause and themselves in a whole new way.
Spoiler alert! Women from the audience are welcomed up on stage for a rousing chorus line style finish and fellowship style tribute to all women.
Menopause the Musical features some gentle risqué humor (one scene involves a clever ode to sexual toys) that may not be appropriate for children; and judging from the audience excitement the kids were not missed all that much! The material is never offensive, nor does the dialogue contain coarse language. But the subject matter is definitely targeted at those old enough to laugh at themselves, or perhaps the college-aged daughters who are wondering whatever happened to mom and swear this will never happen to them.
This audience was in high spirits, especially for a matinee performance, compared to the usual subdued chatter indicative of waiting for the curtain to rise. Even the traditionally older crowds of an afternoon outing greatly added to the fun by setting up an atmosphere charged with energy and laughter. Even the husbands who seemed bewildered by the anticipation were soon having a great time laughing along with their wives. Menopause the Musical reminds all of us that no one is immune to getting older; but that getting older is just a state of mind.
Menopause the Musical is on tour and coming to a city in the United States, Canada, and Australia near you! For more information about the play, tour dates, tickets, and merchandise, go to menopausethemusical
*Note actresses listed subject to change due to tour date schedules.
The ticket for this performance review was provided courtesy of Menopause the Musical. A very special thank you to Diana Pratt, National Director of PR, for her kind assistance.