`Menopause' gives women something to sing about

October 28, 2003|By SUSAN REIMER

OUR MOTHERS never talked to us about menopause, but we can't seem to shut up about it.

The unspoken "change of life" through which our mothers passed - often with tumultuous results for the clueless kids and husband - has lost all its mystery in just one generation.

We, our mothers' daughters, understand what is happening to us with the authority of a physician. And we commiserate with each other about its symptoms the same way we complain about our husbands and kids - frequently and with humor.

And we aren't just talking about menopause. We're singing and dancing our way through it.

Menopause the Musical opens tomorrow night and continues through Sunday at Goucher College's Kraushaar Auditorium.

Conceived among friends over a bottle of wine, it tells the story of four women who meet during a lingerie sale at Bloomingdale's.

One is a high-powered executive, one is an aging soap star, one is a Midwest housewife and the fourth is an unreformed hippie.

The only things they have in common are their symptoms.

In the show, creator Jeanie Linders parodies songs that are very familiar to "women of a certain age."

"Chain, Chain, Chain, Chain of Fools," becomes "Change, Change, Change, Change of Life."

"Tropical Heat Wave" becomes "Tropical Hot Flash."

Songs from Sonny and Cher, the Beach Boys, Burt Bacharach, Smokey Robinson and others were all given a menopausal spin by Linders.

"This is a parody," she said from her Orlando home. "It is light weight. It is now about theater.

"But the serious side of this show is amazing to me. I have women e-mailing me and telling me, `I can make it now.'

"I have women who tell me I have saved them money on a shrink. It is a validation that what we are going through is normal."

She also has women returning to see the show with husbands. "They are saying, `Hey. That's me up there.'"

For many women, menopause is more than intermittent hot flashes and restless nights. The hormonal tides can take as long as 10 years to ebb, and during that time, a woman can feel inexplicably unhinged.

"I was totally out of control," remembers Linders, "and I didn't even realize it until five years later."

Menopause the Musical was supposed to have a six-week run in West Palm Beach, Fla. That was 2 1/2 years ago.

There is now the national touring company that will appear at Goucher, and another one scheduled to hit the road in January.

There are standing companies performing in South Florida, Miami, Orlando, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Scottsdale, Ariz., and San Diego.

The company in New York City is approaching 700 performances off-Broadway - where, Linders was warned, audiences would be too sophisticated for its rollicking message.

Linders says she thinks the show has struck such a cord not only because there are so many baby boomers "changing" at just this moment in time, but also because this rowdy parody gives all women in the audience - even women 40 years beyond menopause - permission to let loose a little bit.

At the end of the show, the audience is invited to join the cast on stage. And everyone is given a sign that says, "I've changed."

Says Linders: "These are all the women who wanted to take their doctors by the throat - that's how we felt - but who never did."

Menopause the Musical opens at Kraushaar Auditorium tomorrow at 8 p.m., with peformances Thursday at 8 p.m.; Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 and 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $39.50 and are available through Ticketmaster outlets, including Hecht's and the Ticket Office at Hampton Plaza, 300 E. Joppa Road, or by calling 410-481-SEAT or online at www.ticketmaster.com.

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