Talkin' Broadway Regional News & Reviews: Cleveland - "Menopause: The Musical" - 1/25/14
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CLEVELAND
Regional Reviews by David Ritchey

Menopause: The Musical
Hanna Theatre

Also see David's review of Yentl

Legend has it that a local female journalist was once asked by a young colleague, "How long does menopause last?"

The journalist replied, "About five minutes."

We do know "Menopause: The Musical" lasts about 100 minutes. The show is running in the Hanna Theatre, Cleveland's PlayhouseSquare.

The title may make some husbands and boyfriends hesitate. Men, don't worry—if you have a woman in your life, you owe it to yourself, and to her, to see this show, which praises women. Sometimes musical revues of this type have a few minutes of put-down or negativity. This script and the songs never miss a beat in praising women and how women survive those life events that are peculiarly female.

Menopause: The Musical was written by Jeanie Linders (book and lyrics). The music is based on well-known songs, such as "I Heard It Through the Grapevine," "The Great Pretender," "California Girls, "Only You" and about twenty other familiar songs.

Unfortunately, the music is recorded. A musical or a musical revue needs live, in-the-moment music. I've seen this show performed with only a piano accompaniment. That production worked well and lacked the canned sound of pre-recorded music.

The show follows the adventures of four women: Power Woman, the Soap Star, Earth Mother and Iowa Housewife. For the purposes of the script, the women meet in a Bloomingdale's department store and tell stories about their husbands, their children and their mothers. Each woman has her own set of problems and the four are wrestling their way through menopause.

Parody is one of the highest forms of flattery. Each song is a parody of a pop hit. The new lyrics praise women and poke fun at menopause. Sung by a woman who is working out to lose weight, the song "Puff, the Magic Dragon," is rewritten to becomes "Puff, My Tail is Draggin'.'"

The department store setting gives the performers an opportunity to find new clothes on the rack and change costumes. In one scene, the four women change clothes, slowly, while singing "I Got You Babe." The song provides a musical background as the performers dress as either Sonny or Cher.

The Soap Opera Star sings a version of "(We're Having a) Heat Wave," only the new version is titled, "I'm Having a Hot Flash," with appropriate handkerchiefs to wipe away the sweat.

The showstopper is the Power Woman, who wears a business suit and carries a briefcase. When she made an entrance as Tina Turner, in a short, tight, black skirt, a bustier, and a Turner wig, the performer was almost inaudible because of the shouting and applause from the audience.

In a poignant sequence dedicated to their mothers, the four women look into mirrors and see their mothers looking back at them. Later they talk to their mothers on the phone. One of the women sings, "They treat us young though we are old."

Lender wrote woman's wit and wisdom into the script.

At the curtain call, the four women leave their bathrobes behind to reveal sexy, black gowns. They are ready for a sophisticated night on the town. They sing about how they plan to take advantage of the life they have, now.

The four women in the cast seem to be having as much fun as the audience. The cast includes Donna J. Huntley (Professional Woman), Paula Kline-Messner (Soap Star), June Lang (Earthmother) and Dyan Beder (Iowa Housewife). The four have the ability to move beyond performing and to invite audience involvement in the issues discussed in the dialogue and in the songs. Any attempt to single out one performer would be a mistake. This is an ensemble production—each takes her star turn and each is willing to step back and encourage another cast member.

I've enjoyed Paula Kline-Messner's work at Actors' Summit Theatre, a professional theater in Akron. Beder and Lang entertained in a 2005 production of Menopause.

Ladies, this show is a shot of affirmation. Get your gal friends and go. I promise you a night you'll remember for a long, long time. And, take your boyfriends and/or husbands, too. Everyone will have a good time. The show is scheduled to run through February 2, 2014. This closing date gives those who want to skip the Super Bowl a place to have another type of good time. Keep in mind Menopause: The Musical is only a hot flash away. For ticket information, telephone 216-241-6000 or visit www.playhousesquare.org.

Book and Lyrics: Jeanie Linders
Iowa Housewife: Dyan Beder
Professional Woman: Donna J. Huntley
Soap Star: Paula Kline-Messner
Earth Mother: June Lang
Director: Seth Greenleaf
lighting Design: Ryan A. Patridge
Costume Design: Sue Hill
Audio Design: Steve Shapiro
Choreography: Daria Lynne Melendez

- David Ritchey



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