REVIEW: Experience ‘the change’ with ‘Menopause the Musical’

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Four women who seem to have nothing in common except a black lace bra realize they share a lot of the same experiences with
Four women who seem to have nothing in common except a black lace bra realize they share a lot of the same experiences with "the change" in Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre's production of “Menopause The Musical,” now on stage through Feb. 4. (Photo provided/Beef and Boards)

Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre is going through menopause this season.

Onstage now through Feb.4, Beef and Boards opened its 51st season with “Menopause the Musical.” Originally published in 2001 by Jeanie Linders, the off-Broadway hit celebrating women has sold more than 15 million tickets since its debut.

Directed by Seth Greenleaf, choreographed by Patty Bender and co-produced by Gfour Productions, the show opens with four women who find themselves fighting over a black lace bra during a lingerie sale in Bloomingdale’s. The four women could not be more different from one another — other than the fact that they are all going through menopause. 

We meet our cast through a series of phone calls where each put off whatever task they are meant to be doing to shop the ongoing sale. The Professional Woman (Enga Davis) comes dressed up in business attire, seemingly shopping on her lunch break from the office, while Earth Mother’s (Melanie Souza) sundress, sandals and mediation hacks are better suited for a 1970’s kickback than shopping on 59th and Third Avenue.

The Iowa Housewife (Nancy Slusser) and Soap Star (Kimberly Vanbiesbrouck) mirror each other’s flair for the dramatic. However, where the Iowa Housewife has accepted “the change” and the ways it has affected her mood, body and appetite, Soap Star remains in denial that she is old enough for menopause (she is).

Each character has a unique warmth to them, vibrant personalities and cheesy humor — defining what it means to experience life as a woman in different ways, each of which is valid.

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Their story is a hilarious lament woven together through a series of symptoms, outfit changes, bathroom breaks and dancing on every single floor of the department store. It is a story of acceptance at its core; a story of community and friendship.

The stage, intricately decorated to mirror the inside of Bloomingdale’s, changes floor to floor. It is an elevator, bathroom, changing room, café, another bathroom, salon, and like, three more bathrooms. 
It is their safe space for the evening, acting as a platform for those experiencing menopause to be seen and heard during what is described as the “most uncomfortable” time in their lives.

The Earth Mother (Melanie Souza), front, struggles to read the menu at the cafe in Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre’s production of “Menopause The Musical,” now on stage through Feb. 4 . (Photo provided/Beef and Boards)

Act I focus heavily on all the horrible symptoms of menopause, and each character’s struggle is hashed out by adding new lyrics to parody versions of popular songs from the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s. For example, “Stayin’ Alive” and “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” are used to describe the pains of insomnia, while “Heat Wave” and “Wishin’ and Hopin’” break the fourth wall to relay the occurrence of hot flashes.

I mean, there is nothing quite like sitting in an auditorium and hearing the warm sound of (primarily women’s) laughter and (men’s) confusion as the characters onstage sing about night sweats, forgetfulness and wrinkles. The humor is easy, tangible and relatable — even for those who have not yet or will not experience “the change.” 

It is easy to see women you know in the Iowa Housewife, Professional Woman, Earth Mother and Soap Star as they dance through the department store dressed as Sonny and Cher singing about still being afraid to stand up to their mothers.

Act II takes a bit of a turn, where there is acceptance, there is humor. Songs like “What’s Love Got To Do With It,” “Good Vibrations” and “Only You” are whimsically choreographed and performed as each of our ladies describes their ever-changing relationship with sex — or lack thereof.

Spoiler: The end of the show is interactive. But it is a parody of “YMCA,” so if you go, you have no excuse not to participate. It is fun and wholesome, I promise.

Rather than poke fun at women’s expense, like many older musicals (that do not age well) have, “Menopause the Musical” is purely a celebration of women and, if anything, educational.

Although “Menopause the Musical” is suitable for audience members of all genders and ages, I would argue that menopausal and postmenopausal theatergoers will likely have the best experience and be able to relate most to the wonderful characters on stage.

And in about 20ish years, I will too.

“Menopause the Musical” is showing at Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre, 9301 Michigan Road, for 36 performances through Feb. 4, weekdays and Saturday evenings at 8 p.m., Sunday evenings at 7 p.m., and select matinees at 1 p.m. A dinner buffet and select beverages are available prior to each show. Tickets range from $55-$82 and are available to purchase at beefandboards.com.

Contact staff writer Chloe McGowan at 317-762-7848. Follow her on Twitter @chloe_mcgowanxx.