As soon as I saw a tree of mannequins dressed in underwear bathed in harsh florescent lighting, and heard the announcement to ‘switch your phone to vibrate’, I knew I was in for a long night. Menopause the Musical is back.
I like the intent behind this show- it’s important for women to openly and honestly discuss subjects like menopause, and this show may empower them to do so. However, I can’t recall the word menopause being used in the show- instead it is euphemistically referred to as ‘the change’. That’s concerning; is this truly conducive to open discussion?
It’s also disappointing that the women in this show are all stereotypes: the power woman, the hippie, the housewife, the vamp. They had no real personal backgrounds, discernible strengths , or quirks. By trying to be about every woman, this show effectively pink-washes its characters into these ultra-‘feminine’ women whose main concerns appear to be shopping, hot flushes, grey hairs, hot flushes, wrinkles, hot flushes and putting on weight. Where are their families? Their jobs? Their interests? Their passions? Their personalities?
They are not much more than their bodies and their hormones. There is a fine line between empowering women to talk about the effects of menopause, and reducing women to only their hormones.
The narrative isn’t anything special – these four women just meet in a department store (again, stereotypical) and sing oblique songs about the effects of menopause for 90 minutes. It would be much more enjoyable and effective if there were characters to connect to, and a story to engage with.
After the first couple of songs I found myself thinking ‘Ok- we get it. We get the joke. You have hot flushes. Do you have anything insightful or interesting to say?’ Apparently not.
Every song was a rehash of an old song (‘Heard it Through the Grapevine’, ‘Help Me Rhonda’, ‘Burn Baby Burn’, ‘Fever’) with new lyrics that were repetitive and uninspired. Most were about bodily functions – hot flushes, needing to pee a lot, night sweats, incontinence. Fine, but still quite an exaggerated rather than honest or insightful view of menopause. Overblowing things for comedic effect could be inclusive to women who have extreme symptoms, but it just seemed to ring hollow; my theatre companion for the evening was in this show’s target demographic, and she certainly found the whole show hard to relate to.
That said, while the show itself is fairly dire, this production was solid. Caroline Gillmer, Lena Cruz, Donna Lee and Jackie Love all have strong voices and execute the fun choreography with ease. Set changes were smoothly done by crew and the show’s two backup singers. Songs were performed with energy and warmth, although the intermingled dialogue could be stilted and cheesy at times (which may be more the fault of the script than the actors). The set and lighting are fairly gaudy, but that is in keeping with the vibe of the show.
Menopause the Musical is a one-joke show that falls short of being perceptive, and risks being a simplistic and exaggerated portrayal of both menopause and women in general.