Tuesday, 19 July 2016
Menopause the Musical – Women on Fire! July 16, 2016 ***
Written by Jeanie Linders
Athenaeum Theatre until August 6, 2016
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Review also published at Herald Sun Arts, probably by Tues July 19, 2016. KH
Menopause the Musical is back and it’s hotter than before because, this time, it’s Women on Fire!
Jeanie Linders’ hit musical is “Identification Theatre” for women of a certain age who share the menopausal woes of the four characters on stage: hot flushes, night sweats, bladder control problems, memory loss, weight gain and fluctuating libido.
This updated, 90-minute version, directed and choreographed by Tony Bartuccio, has more parodies of popular songs with satirical lyrics about menopause and plenty more dance than the original, 2005 Australian production.
Four women (Caroline Gillmer, Donna Lee, Jackie Love, Megan Shapcott) from different walks of life, meet in a department store at a lingerie sale then slowly discover how much they have in common.
Gillmer is the bold and feisty corporate executive who spends her time in boardrooms while Lee is a timid, unsophisticated housewife down from Dubbo for some shopping.
Love plays an ageing, insecure television soap star who fears her acting career is on the rocks if she cannot retain her youthful looks, and Shapcott is an out-of-town, hippy, earth mother who drinks camomile and eats organic food.
Gillmer is magnetic on stage, and she starts the evening’s varied repertoire of popular songs by belting out the soul classic, Chain of Fools, retitled Change of Life, then later in the show, the audience roars at her Tina Turner parody of What’s Love Got To Do With It?
Lee’s quirky, clownish, country bumpkin is a crowd favourite with her broad, physical comedy when she tries on sexy lingerie and when she is introduced to what looks like a glittering, neon vibrator.
The audience groans in recognition at Shapcott’s song about mood swings and the ensemble’s chorus about anti-depressants, “Pills. We love them so, we always will”, sung to the tune of Fifth Dimension’s Wedding Bell Blues (“Bill. I love you so...”)
Love prowls the stage in her sassy, leopard-skin print frock, singing Some Like It Hot (Feel The Heat), playfully teasing a man in the front row with her antics.
Linders’ dialogue is often bumpy, especially in the first scenes, but the dynamic changes and the energy lifts once the songs start to come thick and fast and the dance routines become more complex, an example being the vibrant choreography in the medley about body image.
The finale of I’m Every Woman, Disco Inferno (Burn Baby Burn) and We Are Family is the show highlight, and the cast invites the audience to come on stage to dance – and they do, in droves.
The last five minutes is a swaying tribe of women on stage with the cast having the time of their lives.
Menopause the Musical is hardly high art but it is fun for those who identify with the circumstances and irrepressible spirit of the women on stage, recognise the classic tunes and crave a night of abandoned laughter at their own expense.
By Kate Herbert
Tony Bartuccio - director/choreographer