With baby boomer grey power and now Vega FM, it’s no surprise that we also have Menopause The Musical. The once silent passage of The Change is being shouted and sung from the Star City Showroom by four very different women. They meet over a Myer bargain counter, fighting over lingerie which wouldn’t fit any of them. But they discover what they have in common -“ cranky night sweats, hot flushes and lost memory.
And that’s about it. The women move through different parts of the department store, with lots of visits to the loo, singing out their menopausal frustration through a long line-up of witty parodies drawing on the hits of the 60s, 70s and 80s. Stayin’ Alive becomes Stayin’ Awake; Fever does nicely as Fever; The Lion Sleeps Tonight becomes The Husband Sleeps On The Sofabed; and My Guy becomes My Thighs -“ which nowadays are never far apart.
Neatly transposed to Sydney, this American musical has come to us billed as a joyous empowerment of women over 40. The audience was dominated by that group -“ some with a few quiet husbands -“ and judging by their reaction, the Jewish American writer of Menopause, Jeanie Linders, may be on to something. All the characters are a little past it, all like most of us battling drooping and expanding body parts, wrinkles, indifference and now volcanic internal changes. Jenny Vuletic plays the soap opera actress whose fortunes, and face, are slipping to younger stars. Susan-Ann Walker, in diaphanous layers, is the hippy lost to what she can remember of the 60s. Caroline Gillmer is the career woman who can’t remember why she’s going to meetings, while Donna Lee is the Dubbo mum trying to revive her sex life.
They are amiable types, now bonded by The Change and, as an ensemble, work well together skipping through dozens of songs backed by a three-piece band. By the end many of the audience are successfully lured onto the stage for a final singalong and the usual affirmation in musical finales. Menopause, however, lacks any plot and is less a musical than a cabaret act of musical parodies, repetitively but hilariously based on one very successful idea.
Going through more than just menopause, Judy Garland’s tortured last days in London are the subject of another new musical offering in Sydney. In End Of The Rainbow Caroline O’Connor is riveting both in song and drama as Garland, simultaneously powerful, vulnerable and acid sharp. O’Connor outshines her script but is well supported by Paul Goddard as her prim pianist and Myles Pollard as her hunky fianc?anager -“ two polarised men each trying unsuccessfully to help her find a new rainbow.
Menopause The Musical is at Star City until 29 September.