Jeanie Linders’ 2001 play Menopause The Musical is a hilarious and heartfelt look at what it's like to go through menopause, as told by four women who sing dozens of songs about its many phases.
More broadly, the show is a celebration of women through music and comedy, and it’s a show that has been staged around the world since its first performance in Orlando, Florida.
Now, the Savannah Theatre – led by founder Michael Meece – is bringing the classic show to their stage. They’ve got three more days of performances on Feb. 1, 2, and 3, and have brought in a world-class cast of equity actors for the performance.
Ahead of the show’s final weekend run, we spoke to cast members Debby Rosenthal and Melanie Souza about their shared history and what the show means to them.
How did you both get involved in this show?
Rosenthal: Melanie and I both started doing this show in early September [of 2018]. They have what's called a boot camp, and we met in Montgomery, Alabama. All four of us in this production are the "newbies" in the Menopause The Musical family. We all really enjoy working together, but there's four or five women in each of the roles. So there's 20 or 25 of us who rotate within the touring productions.
The four of us love working together, so we said to our producer, “Can’t you keep us together? Can’t we all do a show together?” Not that we don’t love the other women, but you make that bond when you do a boot camp together. So when Mike Meece called [our producer] about doing the show in Savannah, he said he wanted to bring in the actors because then we could just re-mount it. She said, “I have the girls for you!” We were thrilled when Mike took all of us together, because we all just really enjoy each other’s company.
Does doing this show in a different environment and a different city give it a sense of newness?
Souza: It does. Every time we go out and do it, it's usually in a different venue. What makes it interesting is that some of the houses are bigger, some are smaller, and the stages are set up differently. So it can almost feel like a new show within the show that we already know, because we have to change things to adapt to the space we're in. You have to adapt.
Rosenthal: But even since we’ve done the boot camp, we’ve all worked with different people. When you’re working with different cast members, it changes the feel and the whole dynamic sometimes. So there’s just always that adjustment. So the four of us being together for the first time since October is really nice.
This show has had a really amazing run, and it was kind of groundbreaking when it came out in that there really wasn’t anything like it. Why do you think it’s done as well as it has?
Rosenthal: There's two things you can't get away from – death and taxes. Everyone will die, and everyone has to pay taxes. And for a woman, everyone has to go through menopause. There's not a choice.
Souza: So there’s always an audience, because people get older and they start menopause. So we’re never without an audience.
Rosenthal: That’s why I think this show will always be relevant, because women will always be going through menopause.
Is there a favorite song or moment in the show that stands out?
Souza: I don't know if I have a favorite, but I think disco is where it starts. There are disco songs [later in the show] but the words are changed, and that's when you really start to hear the laughs. We're talking about night sweats and all kinds of things that happen during menopause, and that's the first one that dives into the symptoms. But we make it funny!
When we were doing our first tour together, we did a lot of meet-and-greets afterwords. Women would come up to us and say, “Oh my god, I didn’t know that everyone was going through the same things as me. I don’t feel so alone now.” That’s what has been the nice thing.
Rosenthal: Melanie sings one song – you’ve heard of “Puff The Magic Dragon”? Well, Melanie sings, “Puff, My God, I’m Dragging,” and the audience goes bananas. You recognize the tune, and as soon as the lyric changes, they lose it. People are literally bending over, laughing so hard.
What do you hope people take away from this show?
Rosenthal: In my grandmother's day, you didn't talk about [menopause]. It was a shameful thing. When there's no awareness to it and people don't talk about it. When Jeanie Linders wrote the show, she brought it to the forefront and said, "This is normal. It's okay." So what I'd like to see people take away from it is that they're not alone and it's a normal process of life.
Souza: This show brings everyone together, and we can laugh about it too. [Menopause] is not going away, so you might as well laugh about it and have fun.