Just like the women it celebrates, "Menopause: The Musical" is aging well.
In fact, after 16 years of sweating it out in theaters across the country, Jeanie Linders' show at the 710 Main theater seems hotter than ever.
The current cast of this traveling sisterhood – Teri Adams, Beth Buczkowski, Megan Cavanagh and Donna J. Huntley – breathes fresh life into the hugely popular show, showing a stunning comfort level with material about the discomforts of middle age. It's commiseration completely contained within a joking, jukebox musical celebration of that oh-so-special (Ha!) nonperiod of women's lives.
For those only just now aging into an interest in the show, the set-up premise is light as a feather. Four women – an executive, an Iowa housewife, a soap opera star and an Earth mother type – meet over an undergarment sale table in a department store (remember those?) and bond over a brassiere.
They discover they all have one thing in common, as Huntley belts out "Change Change Change" to the tune of "Chain of Fools," and that's all it takes to spark a hormone-fueled comedy tour through the indignities of menopause.
And it's amazing how many golden oldie rock songs have near-perfect lyrics that, with only a little tweak, reflect what these golden girls are going through. "Heat Wave," obviously; "A Sign of the Times," "Beauty Is Only Skin Deep." Plus there's the Travolta trifecta, with "Saturday Night Fever" practically a gimme that keeps women "Stayin' Awake" before disco gives way to country dancing with "Looking for Food in All the Wrong Places."
The show succeeds on the cleverness of the writing, the familiarity of the music and the talent of the splendid cast, all layered over a universality of experience that the audience – almost all female – relates to from one side or the other.
The opening night audience of several hundred women and about a dozen brave men were totally in on the jokes, the women because they have been there and the men because they had been around it. There was even a token song for them about the minefield of mood swings, to the tune of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," in which one gal sings "In the guest room / or on the sofa / my husband sleeps at night" while the other three do the "A-weema-weh" chorus with the words "She's a witch, she's a ...."
But one of the most impressive achievements of the show is how it somehow makes menopause sexy. These women are not giving up enjoying their bodies without a fight even if they have to go it alone. Cue a quick cut of "Good Vibrations," and you know where they are going with this, as Adams segues into a heartfelt rewrite of "Only You," trilling out to a sparkling pink handheld device, "When you're in my hand / I understand / the magic that you do..."
And with that, this good-natured, mildly racy, shockingly honest celebration of nature's course bows to the inevitable and shakes its hand.
"Menopause: The Musical"
3 1/2 stars (out of 4)
The touring celebration of women and the change of life is back for an energetic encore at the 710 Main theater, through Oct. 15. Tickets are $26 to $46 (box office, Ticketmaster and by calling 800-745-3000). Visit sheas.org.