Stoneham Theatre Delivers Terrific ‘Menopause The Musical’ (5 Stars)

Menopause The Musical, Book and Lyrics by Jeanie Linders; Ryan A. Partridge, Lighting Design/Technical Director; Steve Shapiro, Audio Design; Sue Hill, Costume Design; Kristin Carter, Audio Supervisor; Timm Keleher, Audio Engineer; Lauria Kincaid, Stage Manager; Rachel Policare, Assistant Stage Manger; Daria Lynne Melendez, Choreography; and Alan J. Plado, Musical Direction of Original Score and Arrangements. 

This is one of those shows that you hear about, and then wonder with intrigued curiosity, how do they tell THAT story? The last local run of Menopause The Musical was in 2003 at the Stuart Street Playhouse in Boston. It doesn’t come around often, and it’s not staying long this time. The story of this perfectly-normal-but-seldom-talked-about female rite-of-passage is told through about two-dozen songs from the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s that have lyrics cleverly changed to reflect the menopause theme. The songs are perfect and the comedic timing of their placement is hysterical. The music makes this show

After last night’s Stoneham Theatre presentation of Menopause The Musical, directed by Seth Greenleaf, I now want to go shopping at Bloomingdales in New York and meet cool ladies like these who are so comfortable with their bodies. The plot is simple; the musical orchestration divine.  Four strangers meet when they fight over a black bra in the lingerie section.  They then break into a song about menopause (“Change, Change, Change”) and end up running into each other on different floors in various departments where their stories deepen (slightly) and the silliness gets even sillier.  Mood swings, night sweats, “hot flashes,” and forgetfulness become main topics of conversation. It’s nice to know that other women experience similar things when going through “the change,” that there are also differences in the experience, and that this, too, shall pass. The actors are from diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds, and two of them reprise their roles from the Boston production of eleven years ago.

The four stellar women have fabulous voices, hitting the ranges of a traditional barbershop quartet. What they are wearing starts to tell their character’s backstory, but how they act, play, and dance off each other makes them a lovable sisterhood which all women will eventually join, should we be gifted with a long enough life, as these characters are. Kathy St. George, a Stoneham native who is of white, European descent, reprises her role as a “famous soap opera star” trying to age (or not to age at all) gracefully. When she huskily sings, “My personal summer is really a bummer,” I was impressed at how she made having a hot flash sexy. Patsy Kline’s “I’m Sorry” gets a makeover into “I’m Flashing.” George’s high heels and slim fitted dress recall Marilyn Monroe, as does her singing.  Her interactions with the audience charmed the pants of the lady theatregoers, and maybe even the gentleman she played off of by sitting in his lap.

Adrienne Cote, who is of white, European decent, reprises her role of the “Iowa housewife” with her plastered on smile and husband focus. She’s so prim and proper in her tight blue suit that her frequent rushes to the bathroom and mini bursts of anger are a riot.  Deciding on which piece of lingerie to buy, “trying on” the skimpiest black lace teddy, and doing it all with facial expressions and pantomime, had me in stitches. She gets a good lesson in not needing to please a man from the Earth Mother and Soap Star as they sing, “Good Vibrations.”

Graciela Valderrama, whose Internet profile indicates she is of Latina heritage, is the “earth mother” complete with dreadlocks and tunic style, layered dresses. She stops in moments of stress to meditate with an “om.” Valderrama can tell a story in complete silence through only body language and facial expressions, and you know exactly what she’s saying – “I can’t see anymore, please hold that menu farther away from me.” Her rendition of “Puff, My God, I’m Draggin” will make me never see Puff, the Magic Dragon the same way again. 

Linda Boston, who is of African American heritage, plays the “professional woman” and wears a smart, black pantsuit. She stands heads taller than the other three, with long legs that serve her well during a Tina Turner impersonation. In my favorite scene (until the finale), Boston’s deep and resonating voice tears out from under the walls with “Ee-e-e-oh-mum-a-weh, Ee-e-e-oh-mum-a-weh” of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” The beat is played out by her back up singers on kitchen utensils of cutting board with wooden spoon and cheese grater, as the lyrics, “Wimoweh, wimoweh, wimoweh, wimoweh” become “She’s a witch, she’s a witch, she’s a b-t-ch, she’s a b-t-ch.”  Every scene is funny and interesting, which makes you wonder what they’ll do next? 

Menopause The Musical addresses a taboo topic with its often hidden universal theme of womanhood.  “Thank you doctor, thank, thank you doctors,” a play on the Beach Boys song, “Help Me, Rhonda” recognizes the contributions of Zoloft, Prozac, Paxil, and Saint John’s Wort. Many self- imposed change-of-life secrets are revealed and shared as the story arrives at the inevitable musical montage where the characters are obligated to put on interesting outfits – they are in a department store, after all – and I was waiting for it!  Without giving too much away, I will say that the song, “I Got a New Attitude” features prominently.

Though the audience was generously salted with women, and the theater had a “girls night out” feeling, there was a peppering of supportive men along for the fun-filled ride.  This show is as much about the music as it is about the topic. Even if you are not celebrating your 80th birthday, like someone in the audience was on the night I was there, the music is sure to put a spring into your step, get you clapping along, and give you an ear to ear grin. From the moment I entered and heard “Love Will Keep Us Together” by Captain and Tennille and “We Are Family” by Sister Sledge playing and saw paper fans being sold for $1.00 to support women’s charities, I knew this was going to be a good time. The show is 90 minutes long, with no intermission, and was over way too soon. For more info, go to: