Joking about menopause

Musical celebrates phase in women's lives

Fairfield Daily Republic ©

SAN FRANCISCO - Is the dreaded phase of menopause an insanely funny topic? Oh, yeah.

For Jeanie Linders, writer/producer of "Menopause the Musical," the change she experienced produced a block of parodied words in her head. In fact, it inspired her to write a musical - one that has garnered universal attention.

"I sent my cast to a Muslim country and the response was the same - it's a very universal process and it's becoming a more visible topic," the 56-year-old said. "There were even men in the audience with turbans on who brought their wives to see it."

Which is why Linders proudly boasts that menopause is no longer "The Silent Passage."

"It has given a voice to women because they're not alone," Linders said from her office in Florida. "Women are suddenly listening to their own voice. You go through this physical change that also launches you to a spiritual change and it becomes more about you."

And that voice sounds something like this: "Comes on like a car crash, no warning, just hot flash. Outside it is nippy, but I'm hot and drippy, I'm having a hot flash," sung to the theme of "Heat Wave."

Although the words bring on many laughs, the show itself is meant to have a deeper meaning, one that creates a "sense of freedom to elevate women."

"The show isn't a cheap laugh. There are other shows out there, since I broke the market, that take the easy way out and that don't want to make the statements through laughter," Linders said. "I am my audience and it's important for me to respect my audience."

The idea was conceived over "a hot flash and a bottle of wine," with its first production in 2001. It is meant to celebrate, with laughter and song, as a woman launches into a new phase of her life.

"Menopause is not something you know you're going through, it's not like you cut yourself and bleed or have a disease. Suddenly, it's there," she admitted. "I remember I was kind of being over the top with mood swings and I guess I was more abrupt and brisk. I thought I was fine but everyone saw it."

The show, which begins its run at Theatre 39 at Pier 39 on April 28, is celebrating its fifth year after its world premiere performance in Orlando.

"It seems to have its own life," Linders says of the show. "It's expanding into other areas, in Hollywood and elsewhere and it's taking more of a forefront position."

"Menopause," which has already performed in 40 cities and six countries, focuses on four characters - an aging soap star (Lisa Robinson), a sixties hippie (Cindy Goldfield), a power executive (Kathleen Antonia) and an Iowa housewife (Kelly Ground). The 90-minute show begins with these four women at a Bloomingdale's in New York City lingerie sale with nothing in common but a lacy black bra and memory loss.

Because the show is about women, Linders created a "Women for Women" program, which provides mentoring and funding for qualified women over 40; and "40 x 40," an art exhibit by women displayed at the "Menopause" performances.

In September, Linders is also beginning a 56-city tour for ovarian cancer.