Oct. 10--Armed with unique and slightly off-kilter senses of humor, composers, lyricists and playwrights have infused singing, dancing and comedy into the Bible in "Jesus Christ Superstar," a New York community in the midst of the AIDS crisis in "Rent," a murderous barber in "Sweeney Todd," Mormonism in "The Book of Mormon" and the Declaration of Independence in "1776."
Few topics, if any, are off limits in musical theater, including menopause. Yes, that menopause, the one-time taboo subject.
"Oh, if you haven't gone through it yourself you know someone who has. Shoot, every day someone is beginning menopause. There's no lack of an audience. It's a rite of passage," actress Sandra Benton said.
Calling from a barbecue joint in Springfield, Mass. -- the latest stop on a 12-week, 47-city tour -- the four-woman cast of "Menopause the Musical" discussed the production's popularity and song parodies.
Actress and nine-year veteran cast member Megan Cavanagh, best known for her role as Marla Hooch in "A League of Their Own," described the performance as a "have-a-drink, leave-your-brain-at-the-door and have-a-good-time kind of show."
Since the musical debuted in 2001, more than 11 million audience members from Malaysia to Israel and Canada to South Africa have reveled in the songs "Puff, My God I'm Draggin' " -- a play on "Puff the Magic Dragon" -- and "Stayin' Awake" -- a nod to the disco hit "Stayin' Alive."
The latest North America tour kicked off in New Mexico last month and will play Decatur's Princess Theatre Center for the Performing Arts on Oct. 22 and 23. Tickets to the 7:30 p.m. performances cost $35-$42.
According to Jeanie Linders, creator and producer of "Menopause," inspiration for the musical set at a Bloomingdale's Department Store lingerie sale occurred over "a bottle of wine and a hot flash."
"Now, where else would four women going through menopause meet, but sifting through a bin of black lace bras?" Benton said. "We quickly find out that we are going through different stages of menopause and, needless to say, hilarity ensues."
Anchored by 25 parodies of 1960s and '70s hits, the musical addresses the hot flashes, mood swings, forgetfulness, night sweats and chocolate binges every woman "of a certain age" experiences.
The 90-minute production includes "I'm Having a Hot Flash!" from Irving Berlin's "Heat Wave," "Drippn' and Droppin' " inspired by "Wishin' and Hopin' " and "My Thighs" based on "My Guy."
Along with Benton as Professional Woman and Cavanagh as Earth Mother, the cast features Annette Houlihan Verdolina as Iowa Housewife and Kathy St. George as Soap Star.
"These are great, iconic parts that women can really relate to. They see themselves as the Iowa Housewife with grown children or the Professional Woman trying to compete with her younger colleagues," Benton said.
While based around women's, um, "experiences," let's say, men need not be afraid. Think, Benton said, of the performance as an educational opportunity.
"A lot of times, guys feel like they are thrown off by the title of the show, but they shouldn't be. If they have a wife, a mother, a girlfriend or a grandmama, they've been through it, they just didn't know it," she said.
For audiences, the show is more than 90 minutes of laughs. After the production, women share their hardships and challenges with the cast. They tell of their battles with cancer and struggles in coping with the deaths of loved ones.
"A lot of women tell us we changed their life. They tell us that we brought them joy for the first time in a long time or that they thought they were crazy, but now they know they're not by themselves," Benton said. "It's life-changing. And they affect us as much as we affect them. The audience is our fifth girlfriend,"
Catherine Godbey can be reached at 256-340-2441 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
'Menopause the Musical'
When: Oct. 22 and 23 at 7:30 p.m.
Where: Princess Theatre Center for the Performing Arts
Tickets: $35-42, available by calling 256-280-2952 or online at www.public.ticketbiscuit.com/MenopauseDecatur
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