Menopause the Musical wastes no time in pulling laughs from the audience. Before the show even begins, ushers walk the aisles selling fans printed with one of the more infamous songs from the show: "I'm Having a Hot Flash, a Tropical Hot Flash." Reading the words immediately calls to mind the 1930s Irving Berlin hit, "Heat Wave," and playbill lists the show's songs, which are all "parodied with great appreciation." Some of the most recognizable are "Chain of Fools," "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" and "Stayin' Alive" to name just a few from the long list.
Jeanie Linders, who wrote the lyrics and book for the show, rewrote the songs in such a clever way that by the end of the show, I was considering buying the soundtrack, not only for a good laugh, but also because the songs were parodied so well.
Menopause the Musical, which is set entirely in New York City's famed department store, Bloomingdale's, has been touring since March 2001, and this year's touring group is comprised of four women who have performed in the show for a number of years.
Monique M. Whittington plays the "Professional Woman" and sports a suit and a strikingly powerful set of lungs. Toward the end of the show, she bursts on stage with a Tina Turner impersonation so good I felt like I was watching Miss Hot Legs herself.
Nancy Slusser plays the "Soap Star." The character is a soap opera queen and a stereotypical older woman who tries to Botox and tummy tuck her way into tight clothing and the homes of younger men.
Another stereotype is the "Earth Mother," played by Janis Roeton. Her character is desperately trying to cheat menopause and age through a regimen of yoga and regular consumption of dong quai and other "relaxing" herbal supplements, although they prove to be of little use against her shifting hormones when she gets into an underwear fight with the Soap Star.
The final character to enter the scene is the "Iowa Housewife," played by Liz Hyde. She is everything one would expect a Midwestern housewife to be: prim, shy and easily excited by what she describes as the "wondrous city."
As the women explore each level of Bloomingdale's, they lament the frustrations of menopause. In one song, the Earth Mother sings a version of "A Sign of the Times," in which the chorus ends, "when your hourglass shape becomes a glass of water."
"Stayin' Alive" becomes "Stayin' Awake" and a line in Linders' version of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" changes to "In the guest room or on the sofa / my husband sleeps at night," because the Earth Mother's spouse fears her mood swings.
So whether you're a woman just reaching maturity, deep in the throes of "the change" or far enough beyond that time in your life that you can look back on it without screaming, Menopause the Musical offers a humorous look at an inevitable time in a woman's life best portrayed by the Iowa Housewife, who elicited the strongest laugh of the evening during a scene in the lingerie dressing room.
The Housewife sneaks a tiny, lacy black teddy from the rack and tiptoes to the edge of the stage with a devilish grin on her face. Looking around to be sure no one is watching, she jerks the teddy up to her chest, trying to wrench the garment around her curvy figure, pulling, stretching and scrunching until the other women come out of their dressing rooms. She tosses the thing on the rack in disgust and says she was "just trying to spice things up in the bedroom." That line is the lead-in to the only song in which Linders didn't make a pun with the title. She left "Good Vibrations," just as is.
Menopause the Musical, March 19, 7:30 p.m.; March 20, 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; March 21, 8 p.m. Nampa Civic Center, 311 Third St. S., Nampa, 208-468-5500, NampaCivicCenter.com.