By Emma Bowen Meyer
For The Herald Bulletin
A once-taboo subject takes center stage at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre as four middle-aged women boisterously belt out the tunes of the highly acclaimed show “Menopause, the Musical.” Rather than suffering the effects of “the change” in silence, they instead commiserate with one another while poking fun at their trials.
Entertaining audiences since 2001, “Menopause, The Musical” has been staged in over 450 cities in the United States and in over 15 countries. Due to its great success, writer Jeanie Linders has created another work with the same audience in mind: The D*Word The Musical (*Ditched, Dumped, Divorced and Dating).
Rather than opening this story with four close friends, “Menopause, the Musical” begins with four strangers who have chosen very different walks of life. Never identified by more than “professional woman,” “Iowa housewife,” “soap star” and “Earth mother” (likely so the characters can easily represent every woman), the main characters are drawn together by a lingerie sale at Bloomingdale’s.
Perhaps in the most cliché way for women to meet, all four collide over the same black bra. But after bonding over their hot flashes, moments of confusion, severe mood swings, insomnia, weight gain, and urgent need to find the bathroom, the women end up spending the entire day together exploring different floors of the famous department store.
Not knowing what to expect from the show, I was surprised as the first song began to the tune of “Chain of Fools” but with the words altered to “Change of Life.” At first I felt like the writer was cheating a little by only changing the words to already-established songs. As the show progressed, however, I enjoyed the parodies of the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s music and looked forward to the next familiar tune.
By far the biggest audience reaction came with the appearance of the “professional woman” dressed as Tina Turner. Uproarious laughter filled the room as Tiffanie Bridges gave a memorable impression of the iconic star.
Second to that was a bit performed by Judy Bridgewater, the Iowa housewife, as she made an elaborate show of stretching a tiny teddy across her ample Midwestern body — over her clothing, of course. By drawing the process out with comedic movements, she had even the men laughing loudly.
While women experiencing menopause — or those living very closely with them — find the show hilarious (judging by the reaction of the audience), it is only amusing to outsiders. While the repetitious mention of hot flashes surely hit home for women who suffer from them on a daily basis, the joke becomes tired for others.
One of the great advantages of Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre is that most shows have so many aspects that something can appeal to everyone. If you don’t like the storyline, you may like the intricate set or the costume changes or the live band or the stellar singing and dancing.
“Menopause, The Musical,” however, is a one-trick pony. The music is prerecorded, the set is well-made but does not change, and the costumes are not showy. Either you think the subject matter is funny or you don’t.
With that in mind, make it a night out with your girlfriends instead of a date night with your husband. While the focus may be on the difficulties of struggling through “the change,” it is a light-hearted show and a celebration of the journey. Women who have entered that stage of life are even invited onto the stage to be part of the chorus line finale and feel part of the show.