In 2006, when I first saw Menopause the Musical I was 41. I remember I laughed a lot AT the jokes. At 51, back in the Twelfth Night Theatre I'm not sure it's quite as funny, or perhaps it's funnier it's just that I'm laughing WITH the performers. There's a big difference, a really big difference. Certainly aging is a wild ride and like gravity you can't fight. Tonight I went along for the ride.
Menopause the Musical is set in a Department Store lingerie department where four women from very different backgrounds discover they share a very common bond - they've hit menopause. Over the next 90 minutes through parody songs they reveal the "joys" of hot flushes, nocturnal sweats, insomnia and things that are wet when they should be dry as well as things that are dry when they should be wet. Of course this is ridiculous. Even women of a certain age with hormone-induced mind blanks and madness don't launch into discussions about these deeply personal matters with strangers in departments stores. We wait until the wine waiter or at least the barista appears. We are not savages after all. In fact, had this not been written in 2001 when I had no idea of the "fun" ahead of me, this could be transcript of one of my ladies' lunches. Fortunately, for everyone, no-one sang. It is, of course, the songs that make Menopause the Musical the worldwide sensation it is. Chain, Chain, Chain, Chain of Fools becomes Change , Change, Change. Change of Life and In the Jungle the Mighty Jungle the Lion Sleeps tonight is reworked something along the lines of in the study or in the spare room my Husband Sleeps Tonight. You get the idea. You have to laugh. And you do, until you snort or cry. Since the original was in Brisbane 10 years ago, the script has been updated and new jokes added so this version with Caroline Gillmer, Jackie Love, Donna Lee and Lena Cruz is rebranded with the subtitle Women on Fire. But the substance is pretty much identical to the point you might not notice the difference if it wasn't for the selfie stick and "in" antidepressant brands. It's still a musical that resonates with more mature women because they are invisible in popular culture. Popular music is all about love, lust and looks when their reality is more sagging, sweats and sleeplessness (or perhaps that's just me). The fact that 11 million people worldwide including 500,000 Australian women* have seen it would suggest it's not just me. It's a thing because it's funny, charming and real with just the right tinge of sad. And when you throw in four incredible singing voices, what's not to love? Well menopause, actually, There's not much to love about that little "gift' from God but given it's a passage all women have to go on you might as well strap yourself in with others sharing the journey and enjoy the ride. It's not like you have a choice.
*Those Australian figures are actually Australia "people" not Australian "women". Some men do see the show. I reckon it could be as high as 5% on any given night. Good for them. I'm sure they find it funny and enlightening although personally I think this is secret women's business and should stay that way. Popular culture is full of men's stories. Let us have this gem.