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Another look at ‘Menopause, The Musical’ at PlayhouseSquare

After a two-year run in a converted restaurant space at the Hanna Building, “Menopause, The Musical” has found another Cleveland home in the creatively restored Hanna Theatre. A musical celebration of “the change,” this show seems to be an empowering production for women, which is one of the goals of its creator, Jeanie Linders.

Linders’ show features four women of a particular age. One is an Earth Mother, strongly influenced by the ’60s. Another is an Iowa Housewife. The third is a Soap Star, and the last a Professional Woman. Set in a department store, the ladies meet, argue over undergarments on sale and soon are commiserating about the changing status of their bodies.

There’s limited dialogue in this tight 90-minute show. There are 18 very recognizable songs, including “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” “Natural Woman,” “California Girls,” etc. However, the songs have new lyrics in sync with the show’s theme. The audience on the opening night at the Hanna when I saw the show was largely women – a good sign – and each song brought fresh gales of laughter.

This production boasts four hugely talented cast members whose voices are better matched than those I remember in past productions. Paula Kline-Messner as the Soap Star sings a languid version of “Tropical Heat Wave” while she vamps the male audience members. “I’m having a hot flash, a high level hot flash,” she croons. “My ‘personal summer’ is really a bummer. I’m having a hot flash.”

Dyan Beder was part of the previous Cleveland production and returns as Iowa Housewife. It’s fun to see her move gently from obsessing about her husband and children, to a more liberated woman. Donna Huntley has a huge gospel voice crammed into her tiny body, and is an audience favorite when she “lets go” in her solos. Cleveland favorite June Lang returns as Earth Mother in a dowdy ’60s-style dress who resorts to deep breathing to combat her stresses.

“Menopause, The Musical” is entertaining for men as well as women. At the opening night, I observed the “flush of recognition” on many husband’s faces. They could relate to the experience of the characters as well as their wives could. Daria Lynne Melendez’s choreography staging in this production makes each of the cast look great in all of the song stylings.

A bit dated since its first version, “Menopause, The Musical” is rumored to be in a  “tweeking” process for the future. This will make it more relevant to an audience a decade younger than the first target group. The smallish audience at opening night at PlayhouseSquare’s Hanna Theatre enjoyed the show and gave it a standing ovation, and many of the ladies went on stage to dance in the show’s finale. “Menopaus, The Musical” runs through Feb. 2.

 

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