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Joy Lynn Matthews, Joyce A. Presutti, Carolann Page,
and Mary Jo McConnell in Menopause The Musical
(Photo: Carol Rosegg)
Just as The Vagina Monologues sought to bring that particular female body part to the fore, so Menopause The Musical seeks to shed some light on the process that women call The Change. In this show, which was a hit in Florida (no surprise there!) and is now debuting Off-Broadway at Theatre Four, producer and writer Jeanie Linders makes The Silent Passage sing.

Menopause is not an original book musical, nor is it a parody along the lines of Urinetown or Reefer Madness. Basically, it is a musical revue on the theme of menopause and other issues faced by older women. The situation is simple: a no-nonsense businesswoman, an aging hippie, a soap opera star, and an Iowa tourist meet while shopping at Bloomingdale's, then proceed to commiserate about the pain of going through menopause. They do so to the tunes of popular '60s and '70s songs for which Linders has written new lyrics that reflect the women's middle-aged angst.

All of this isn't as bad as it might sound. Linders has made several smart decisions in creating this niche theater piece, notably her choice of music. From "The Great Pretender" to "California Girls," it's one classic after another, well sung by the four cast members (Joy Lynn Matthews, Joyce A. Presutti, Carolann Page, and Mary Jo McConnell) and well played by a three-piece band. Patty Bender's choreography provides many great laughs, allowing the ladies to make some Travolta-like moves in the "Stayin' Alive" take-off and to look like The Supremes when they're doing numbers like "My Guy." Linders' lyrics are cute and generally written well; aware that many of her takeoffs are extended one-liners, she keeps them interesting by way of some nice lyrical surprises. Or, sometimes, she simply ends a song once the point has been made, rather than dragging it out.

Of course, you have heard some of these jokes before. Cracks about hot flashes and long-suffering husbands (to the tune of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," we get: "In the bedroom, the guest bedroom, my husband sleeps tonight") are not exactly fresh. But there is very little entertainment out there that speaks directly to women over 40, and Menopause The Musical has four performers of that age range presenting the relevant issues with a humorous and positive attitude. No, they don't revel in the hormonal challenges that age has brought them, but they treat them like the natural phenomena they are, rather than dismissing them with the derisive asides often used to mock the "over-the-hill" crowd.

Speaking of which, the audience on the night I attended the show was primarily made up of middle-aged women...and they loved it. It's their show, after all. Will it appeal to younger women? Probably. And will it appeal to men? Maybe, in that it could help them to understand their mothers and wives better. While hot flash jokes have been around forever, not everyone knows about the other trials that women of this age go through: night sweats, short-term memory loss, insomnia, sudden bursts of anger, and the everyday frustration that comes with slow-going physical and emotional changes. Menopause The Musical turns these heady subjects into entertainment with good humor and good music. It's the sort of show to which you might want to take your mom, the next time she's in town.

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