So there I was, with probably 20 other men and 680 women at the Tower Theatre, in the audience for the first performance Saturday of “Menopause the Musical.” Outnumbered? Yes. Loving every minute of the show? You bet.
I’m certainly not in the target audience for a musical that turns the song “Night Fever” into “Night Sweatin.” (One of my Facebook friends commented that I should make my attendance into a drinking game by taking a swig every time a woman on stage complained about it being too hot. Sorry, I wrote back after the show: I wouldn’t have been able to drive home.) I can’t empathize when one of the cast members sings, “My personal summer is really a bummer.” I don’t exactly connect with the song “My Thighs” (sung to the tune of “My Guy”).
But comedy is comedy. And terrific actors are terrific actors, whatever the material. I didn’t want to miss the national tour of this popular Off-Broadway show, complete with a quartet of Equity performers. I’m glad I didn’t. In terms of staging, acting, singing and design, this extremely funny production is as smooth as the satin sheets the four women complain about when experiencing night sweats. (Satin gets so cold so fast. Ugh.)
There are two shows remaining: 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.
Jeanie Linders’ book and lyrics — the show debuted in 2001, and it’s been cracking up big audiences of women ever since — gives us four Everywoman types of a certain age. There’s Professional Woman (Kimberly Ann Harris), known to charge out of her office down the hall toward the meeting room — and forget why. (Ah, the indignities of memory loss as you get older.) The Soap Star (Kathy St. George) might have a fan base, but she also suffers from epic hot flashes. The Earth Mother (Margot Moreland) is still sorta stuck in the ’60s, but as the decades march on, even her attempts at meditation don’t help with mood swings. And the Iowa Housewife (Liz Hyde) can’t exactly fit into the sexy lingerie she’d like to wear for her husband.
The four meet at Bloomingdale’s in New York, became fast friends, and wind up giving us a tour of the department store as they sing and poke fun at themselves, tackling such issues as working out, weight gain, sex appeal, psychotropic relief and — of course — the much lamented rise in body temperature that seems a cornerstone of menopause.
Bud Clark’s nifty Art Deco-style set — which fits in beautifully with the Tower’s decor — is an elegant allusion to world-famous Bloomingdale’s. And it’s also practical for a touring production that has to fit into all sorts of different venues, with self-contained lighting adding an extra punch. Sue Hill’s costume design is a treat. And Seth Greenleaf’s brisk direction keeps the laughs barreling along.
But it’s the four women who really make this show, and all of them shine, from Harris’ turn as Tina Turner and St. George’s hilarious little trip into the audience to cavort with a man, to Moreland’s work-out romp and Hyde’s disastrous lingerie experience. The vocals are terrific and the comic timing razor sharp. I was especially taken with Hyde’s stage presence: With her string of pearls, ample chin and open-mouthed gape of enthusiasm, she wiggles her big frame in a way that says you don’t have to be a Size 2 to knock the socks off an audience.
Funny thing is, even though the show’s title uses the “M” word prominently, the term itself is actually used very little in the show. The women keep talking about “The Change,” and they do it with the sort of sweeping formality that characters in “Star Trek” use when talking about The Borg. (That’s what you get when a man reviews this show: a connection between the Starship Enterprise and menopause. Sorry about that.) In a broader sense, even though the show focuses on the physical and mental changes a woman goes through when she reaches a certain age, the heart of the message is empowerment. Accept your age gracefully, find good friends to make the transition easier — and don’t ever stop having fun.
Which is what the nearly sold-out audience at the Tower did. The whooping and hollering sometimes drowned out the lyrics. I might not have gotten every single joke — and I can authoritatively declare that this is the first time I’ve heard the song “Good Vibrations” used to describe, well, real vibrations — but I was there in spirit every step of the way. Declare me an honorary member of Club M.