Off-Broadway hit pokes fun at estrogen express

Musical takes audience on roller-coaster ride of emotions

Menopause The Musical, Kay Meek Arts Centre Theatre, April 11 and 12 at 7:30 p.m. and April 13 at 2 p.m. Tickets: $48 and $58 (for VIP experience), 604-981-6335 or kaymeek.com.

Hot flashes can be hysterical.

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Well, maybe not while you’re in the throes of night sweats – but there is a time and a place where you can laugh about menopause.

A musical about the change is coming to the Kay Meek Arts Centre, promising to bring audiences on a roller-coaster ride of emotions propped up by songs from the 1960s to the ’80s – all re-lyricized to poke fun at menopause.

The off-Broadway hit Menopause The Musical is set in a department store where four women meet by chance while shopping for a black lace bra at a lingerie sale. After noticing unmistakable similarities among one another, the women joke about their woeful hot flashes, mood swings, wrinkles, weight gain, memory loss, too much sex, not enough sex and more.

“There’s no question that it hits a nerve with audiences,” says the show’s producer Mark Zimmerman, speaking on the line Monday from Revelstoke, the first B.C. stop on what’s been a fruitful Menopause The Musical tour.

“It’s a wonderful, fresh comedic approach on literally a recipe on how to survive the change.”

Zimmerman was introduced to Menopause by accident, in 2006. The Torontonian had just purchased the rights for another show, when the licence holders for Menopause persuaded him to get on board the estrogen express.

Menopause The Musical is now in its 14th year of production, and is recognized as the longest-running scripted production in Las Vegas. The show has been seen by more than 11 million people and entertained audiences across the world.

Prior to purchasing the Canadian rights, Zimmerman watched some clips of the spectacle and thought to himself: “For sure. I mean, Menopause The Musical, I just knew it had all the elements of being a great show.”

What makes Menopause The Musical so brilliant, says Zimmerman, is the parodying of hit songs from past generations, when menopause wasn’t heralded.

Top-tappers from Aretha Franklin, the Bee Gees, the Beach Boys and Mary Wells all make an appearance during Menopause, but satirized a la Weird Al Yankovic.

“My Guy” is now reimagined as “My Thighs,” while “Help Me, Rhonda” has become “Help Me, Doctor” in the Menopause musical, delivered in four-part harmony from the cast.

“They don’t stop moving. It’s non-stop choreography, singing and the laughter,” explains Zimmerman of the actresses. “It’s really hysterically funny.”

Zimmerman’s co-partner on the production is Janet Martin who also happens to be one of the original Canadian cast members for Menopause The Musical; she plays an Iowa housewife. A veteran thespian, Martin has graced the stage at the Stratford Festival and sings in a range of styles from rock to Dixieland.

Rounding out the Menopause cast is Lorena Mackenzie, who plays a soap star, Sarah Strange, an Earth Mother, and Michelle E. White, a professional.

Menopause The Musical launched in Toronto in 2006 and enjoyed a long run that stretched into 513 consecutive shows. For the last four years, the musical has been touring extensively across the country.

Asked what has compelled him to ride the menopause train for more than a decade – off and on – Zimmerman can’t contain his excitement.

“I have to tell you why I love it,” he says. “Honestly, the joy and pure laughter in the house is so palpable. It’s contagious. It’s so wonderful to be part of such an upbeat, fun evening of entertainment.”

Even though not a lot of men turn up to the theatre, “because it has the stigma of a chick flick,” Zimmerman believes Menopause The Musical does have the power to save marriages.

“The men who have come to the show have come out with a better understanding of what their wife or spouse or partner is going through – and they have empathy. Like why someone would open up a window in the middle of winter at two o’clock in the morning?”

A couple years ago, the Canadian touring production of Menopause decided to raise money for women’s shelters in every community they stopped in, by selling hot flash fans to theatre patrons.

For the West Vancouver shows, Menopause The Musical is raising funds for YWCA Crabtree Corner Community Resource Centre, which supports marginalized women and families living in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside through transitional housing, parenting programs, a community kitchen and violence prevention counselling, among other services.

“It’s just our way of giving back to the community and giving back to women, because the truth is 99.9 per cent of our audience are women. It’s a wonderful thing,” says Zimmerman.

Menopause’s mass appeal comes from the musical’s relatability factor. Women can’t help but get swept up in the mood swings on stage.

“It becomes a sisterhood, so to speak,” says Zimmerman. “They laugh together and they bond together.”

Menopause’s producer hopes women walk away from the musical with a new attitude of acceptance – to go easy on themselves through the change.“Swing with it – because in time it will pass,” says Zimmerman.

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