Reviewed by Claudia Perry
After the initial disappointment in realizing there is no original score to Menopause The Musical (just new lyrics to Baby Boomer Top 40 hits from the 60's, 70's and 80's), I settled in for what turns out to be a very funny revue about losing one's hormones and sometimes one's mind. Yes, this parody of "Women and The Change" has songs about night sweats, hot flashes, brain collapses, mood swings, food issues and insomnia.
Now in its 11th month at Society Hill Playhouse, this little show is still playing Off-Broadway in New York and in L.A., Boston, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Cleveland, Orlando and other American cities. I guess you could say this niche musical has found its niche (or niches as the case may be)! And that's due to the fact that it's an unabashed celebration of sisterhood - the sharing of the mature female experience.
The 90 minute musical parody takes place in Bloomingdale's where four menopausal ladies meet over a lingerie sale table -- an Iowa housewife, a lost in the 60's Hippie, a Power Executive and an aging Soap Star. Fighting over a black lace bra the women make friends and spend the day together. Well, presumably they do - because the set never changes -- it just becomes different parts of the store - the dressing room, the bathroom - the restaurant, etc. What playwright Jeanie Linders has given us are four female stereotypes broadly played á la sketch comedy and the results are pretty hilarious. However, if the four actresses in the piece weren't as equally talented (in different ways) as they are, this little pastiche wouldn't hold together. But they are and it does.
There are many songs about the same thing, as each character sings her own take on each particular subject. This repetition would be monotonous if the songs weren't funny. But in point of fact they are. Some standout numbers were "Staying Awake" (to the tune of the Bee Gees, "Staying Alive") which segued into "Night Sweating" (Night Fever) complete with choreography that parodied that of the film Saturday Night Fever. (Yes, it was a visual thing.) And "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" which is turned into a send-up of diminished sexual libido with lyrics like: "In the guest room or on the sofa My husband sleeps tonight" A nice almost poignant moment was "I Got You Babe" where the women sing to their mothers on the phone (I'm your babe, Mom). I say "almost poignant", because by the end of the number two of the women have turned into Cher look-a-likes and two others have turned into Sonnys. It's very silly and very funny.
Lois Sach Binder lights up the stage like a neon sign with her bright pink suit and effusive persona as the Iowa Housewife. She manages to portray a fully developed character though there is precious little in the book to help her. She has some of the funniest moments of the evening when she tries to squeeze into a very tiny, very sheer, very sexy piece of black lingerie. And her song, "Good Vibrations" about the joys of discovering a vibrator for the first time (the naughtiest song in the show and the funniest) is a real show stopper -- and Ms. Binder's combination of great voice and comedic skills puts it over the top. CeCeLia Birt has a wonderful husky voice and commanding presence that serves her well as the Power Woman. And her impersonation of Tina Turner singing "What's Love Got to Do With It" complete with butt shaking choreography is a hoot. Strong voiced Carol A. Provonsha is terrific as the Vegan Earth Mother who still hasn't married her mate. In the tradition of Carol Burnett, Ms. Provonsha crosses her eyes, shakes her bounteous booty and hams it up. But it all works -- because whatever she does - she gets a laugh. Stephanie Eley, new to the cast as the aging Soap Star, brings a dancer's grace and svelte body. Though vocally not very strong, Ms. Eley is a good actress and puts over all her material. She especially delighted the one lone male audience member by coming out into the audience and singing "I'm having a hot flash" (to the tune of Irving Berlin's "Heat Wave") up close and personal.
The show is definitely a great night out for the girls. Regardless of age, I think most women will find it entertaining. However, the big appeal seems to be for the 40 plus age range females. Certainly not as off putting to the male sex as the brilliant "The Vagina Monologues", Menopause The Musical is quite good natured and men will not take offense. But whether or not they will be rolling in the aisles as the fairer sex is - is up for grabs.