Off-Broadway already has seen shows called Urinetown, The Vagina Monologues and Puppetry of the Penis, so why not Menopause, the Musical?
That's the hope of producers Mark Schwartz and Jeanie Linders, who will see their Florida musical hit open at Off-Broadway's Theatre Four on April 4, after previews from March 5. The show had initially eyed the Minetta Lane Theatre (which instead got The Last Five Years), but delays and the post-Sept. 11 chill Off-Broadway forced a change in those plans.
Joy Lynn Matthews, Mary Jo McConnell, Joyce A. Presutti and Carolann Page star in the show, directed by Kathleen Lindsay, who also staged the show at West Palm Beach's Cuillo Center for the Arts, where it's been running since June 22, 2001. Patti Bender again choreographs, with Corine Aquiliana serving as musical director.
Designing the Off-Broadway production, which is budgeted at $500,000, are Jess Poleshuck (set), Martha Bromelmeier (costumes), Johanna Doty (sound) and Michael Gilliam (lighting).
In the show, penned by co-producer Linders, a group of women in Bloomingdales talk about the ups and downs of middle age. "It's set to classic baby-boomer music with new lyrics," Peek told PBOL. The revised tunes include "I Heard it Through the Grapevine," "You'll No Longer See 39," "Chain of Fools" (rewritten as "Change change change / Change of life"), the Bee Gees parody, "Staying Awake, Staying Awake," and "The Husband Sleeps Tonight." Asked about the show, 53-year-old Linders told Playbill On-Line (Feb. 1), "The story chronicles the meeting of four women at a lingerie sale; they're all fighting over a black lace bra at Bloomingdales. There's an aging soap star, a power executive, an Iowa housewife with her husband at a convention, and the lost-in-the-60s hippie type. And we've got 28 songs that have been 'relyricked.' It's about memory loss, chocolate binges, night sweats, plastic surgery, not enough sex, too much sex...
"The audience response has been incredible," continued Linders. "There's dancing onstage at the end. Some women even bring props like Rocky Horror — there's a moment in the show when each character pops up with her own anti-depressant, and women in the audience show up with their own pills. After the show we hand out `You Be The Critic' cards that the audience fills out. We've received responses like, `Now I know I'm part of a sisterhood,' and 'Where were you 40 years ago?' It's not a theatrical production, it's a women's movement!"
General Manager Peek said the current Florida production, which opened June 22 at the Cuillo Center, will probably take a three month break but then return and be unaffected by the separate New York production. As for the show's target audience, Peek said, "It's amazing what happens when women see themselves on stage. Women their age, their same general, physical thing... up there doing what I think they wish they were doing, and talking about problems they all have in common. It's amazing; they love it. I want this to be my little Forever Plaid."
Tickets will go on sale shortly via TeleCharge (212) 239-6200.
This is not the first time "the change" has made it to the musical stage. A musical called Menopositive has been popular in Canadian theatres for the last five years.
—By Robert Simonson
and Kenneth Jones