Arts » Arts Etc.

Singin' in the change

Katie Anne Harper, Carla Nickerson, Jane Haas, and Melissa Gonzalez star in Menopause the Musical at the Cameo. Courtesy photo.
Menopause The Musical
7:30pm Wed-Fri; 2pm & 7:30pm Sat; 2pm & 5:30pm Sun
Cameo Center
1123 E. Commerce
I didn’t know what to expect when I walked into the Cameo Center and took my seat for Menopause the Musical. Would I feel out of place? (A little.) Would I feel persecuted and reviled? (Not at all.) Would it be as terrifying as Prostate Cancer: The Rock Opera? (Not even close.)

Of course, my apprehension about seeing a musical cannot possibly compare to the apprehension of women going through menopause — which is not only an object lesson in perspective, but also perhaps the whole point of the play. This is a musical about embracing the changes that occur during menopause and embracing your fellow sisters going through “the change,” and it provides enough humor and entertainment to avoid completely alienating or marginalizing those of us who aren’t undergoing any changes and who aren’t unbalanced enough to go around expressing our deep but completely misplaced empathy with menopausal women.  

The rudimentary plot of Menopause is built around four women from vastly different backgrounds (Iowa housewife, big-city businesswoman, soap actress, and hippie) who run into each other at Bloomingdale’s and go from floor to floor shopping and singing about hot flashes, memory loss, hot flashes, body image, hot flashes, men, sex, and hot flashes. The songs are all familiar pop tunes with lyrics slightly tweaked to make references to things like, well, hot flashes. (It’s a little bit like an apolitical Capitol Steps show.)

Sometimes this is downright clever, other times it’s slightly pointless (“Change, change, change … change of life”?) but the singing is usually so good that it’s easy to get past any lyrical problems, and it’s never as off-putting as hearing the Go-Go’s on television catering to carnivores with “We’ve got the meat.” Actually, by the time we got to the Bee-Gees medley I was enjoying myself more than I care to admit, although there were a couple of times when I was waiting for the moment the lyrics would tell me which product I should buy — but the anti-depressant ditty was a witty parody of the fact that you can sell anything to baby boomers with the right tune.  

Of course, it’s a lot easier to forgive the general silliness of the show when the performers are as excellent as these four women. These are some singers who can really sell a tune and each of the actresses does an outstanding job of creating a character out of their given stereotypes. Katie Anne Harper’s comic gestures make her a joy to watch as the Iowa Housewife (she has a great bit with no words or music) and Jane Haas puts in an equally entertaining comic turn as the Earth Mother. Melissa Gonzalez scorches the stage in her numbers as the aging Soap Star. My personal favorite, though, was Carla Nickerson’s show-stopping Tina Turner impersonation. It was marginally related to menopause, but such a great musical number and one which, thankfully, wasn’t yet another hot-flash tune. The jokes get a bit repetitive but the performances and the delivery surprisingly don’t get old.  

I’m not sure I know any more about “the change” than I did before I saw Menopause the Musical, but then this is (thankfully) an entertaining, life-affirming musical and not an initiation into a cult or an educational documentary. It would have been easy to turn Menopause into a tedious series of monologues, and while slapping parody lyrics onto old tunes might seem like a cop-out, I can only wish that all of life’s stages would have a snappy little musical revue to go with them.

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