Review: Menopause The Musical
A musical about vibrators, hot flushes and cellulite that asks for audience participation could only have been written by an American. But could it be successful in England?
The storyline is simple. While wrestling over cut-price lingerie at Marks and Sparks in Marble Arch, four middle-aged women form an unlikely bond.
One is a cut-throat Power Woman (Miquel Brown) in a snappy suit. One is a dreamy, hippie Earth Mother who meditates when stressed (Amanda Symonds.)
The Soap Star character (Samantha Hughes) has seen better days, but tries hard to retain her glamorous lifestyle.
The last stereotype is a dowdy Rutland Housewife (Su Pollard), who is wildly excited to be in London, and boasts that she will be soon going abroad “to Edinburgh!”
They all have one thing in common. No points for guessing: the menopause.
Together the women move through the shop, discussing different aspects of the “change”, and singing song parodies to illustrate their experiences.
Examples include “Night Sweats” to the tune of “Night Fever”, and that favourite Beach Boys classic California Girls becomes “I wish we all could be sane and normal girls,” a song about Prozac.
By the end of the show the ladies have learned to live with the aging process and all its inconveniences, trials and tribulations.
It culminates with the audience being invited onstage to dance with the cast.
It’s difficult to review a musical which, according to Jeanie Linders, the writer and producer, “is about women… not about theatre.”
The show is only an hour and a half long, leaving little scope for development of characters, or for anything else for that matter.
It is jam-packed full of songs, supported by a synthetic three-piece band who make every number sound like lift music.
It follows on that there is little dialogue, and the dialogue that does exist consists of jokey one-line quips, designed to move us on swiftly (and without mercy) to the next parody.
The actresses do the best they can with the material they are given. Samantha Hughes moves gracefully to the stunted pop-inspired choreography.
Miquel Brown’s fantastic voice is almost too good for this performance. The singer of So Many Men, So Little Time and mother of So Macho Sinitta has camp disco running through her veins.
Her 2001 performance as Negro Woman in A Streetcar Named Desire confirmed her ability to act. It is a shame that we don’t see either of those traits in this musical.
However, there is no doubt that Menopause the Musical is a global success.
Since 2001 it has been seen by nearly nine million people in nine different countries (including the usual suspects like the US, where the show started, but also South Africa and Israel.)
Whatever else is said about Menopause, it is ground-breaking and original in the sense that it appeals only to a very specific audience.
Or does it? Over 50 percent of the population go through the menopause at some point in their lives, which hardly counts as a minority group.
Yet “the change” is hardly ever referred to in popular culture. You can’t imagine Katie and Peter Andre referring to it in their next single.
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Mysterious Menopause perhaps?
This isn’t an unfair comparison. Menopause the Musical is just as commercial as any of Jordan’s ventures.
Don’t go if you’re looking for a musical experience that rivals the breath-taking sets of The Lion King, or the haunting tragedy of Les Misérables.
Nor can it be compared to The Vagina Monologues. Menopause the Musical doesn’t have the wit, the pathos or the substance.
It simply isn’t the same kind of theatre, and to its credit, doesn’t seek to be.
Menopause The Musical is playing at the Shaw Theatre in London.