By Rita J. Egan
From now through Oct. 27, the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts is celebrating a change that has nothing to do with the seasons but more with hot flashes, weight gain, hot flashes, restlessness, mood swings, hot flashes, memory loss, night sweats and did I mention hot flashes? The theater closes out its 17th season with the hilarious “Menopause The Musical.”
With book and lyrics by Jeanie Linders, the story follows four strangers who get acquainted during a lingerie sale at New York City’s Bloomingdale’s. Despite different personalities and backgrounds, they find out they have something in common — the change of life. Bonding over the symptoms of menopause, the play has appealed to women in their 40s, 50s and beyond since it first debuted in Orlando in 2001. With clever remakes of classic songs from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, the show can be an entertaining production for men but is probably best enjoyed as a ladies’ night out.
Seth Greenleaf skillfully directs a talented cast of four women, Monica Palmer, Nancy Slusser, Jenny McGlinchey and Amy Baugmaier, who display immense comedic ability and singing voices to match.
Palmer approaches her role as the businesswoman with the right amount of confidence and attitude, while Slusser is a sassy Soap Star. McGlinchey is the perfect choice for Earth Mother as she easily and hysterically transforms from zen hippie trying to manage her symptoms to an imperfect woman just waiting for a symptom to pass. Baugmaier, as the housewife, is sweet and endearing. All four also show enough vulnerability for the audience to believe that their characters would befriend three strangers in the middle of the Big Apple.
The audience will quickly identify with songs such as “Change, Change, Change,” a hilarious take on Aretha Franklin’s “Chain of Fools,” and “Stayin’ Awake/Night Sweatin,” a twist on the hits “Stayin’ Alive” and “Night Fever” from the movie “Saturday Night Fever.” Like most songs in the musical, they detail the changes women go through with a healthy dose of humor.
As the show progresses, each scene and number garners more laughter, whether it’s Earth Mother singing “My Husband Sleeps Tonight” to the tune of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” to share her woes about insomnia, or all the actresses performing “Sane and Normal Girls”/“Thank You Doctor” (“California Girls”/“Help Me Rhonda”) as each of the women professes her gratefulness for the prescriptions prescribed by her doctor.
During the reprise of “I’m Flashing,” a spin on the song “I’m Sorry,” Palmer’s character apologizes for her hot flashes. Slusser also has some fun flirting with the audience during the reprise of “Hot Flash” (“Hot Stuff”) where her singing talent is front and center.
One of the funniest scenes takes place when Baugmaier tries on lingerie in the store’s dressing room and Palmer suddenly appears dressed like Tina Turner singing “What’s Love Got to Do With It.” The laughs kept coming as Baugmaier sings a beautiful version of “Only You” to her newfound friend — a vibrator. From beginning to end, the cast keeps the audience in stitches.
Set designer Bud Clark and costume designer Sue Hill also deserve a round of applause. Clark has built a set that is simple yet incorporates pieces that easily create the feel of a department store, while Hill’s costumes fit the characters perfectly (Palmer’s Tina Turner outfit is sensational). Musical director Melissa Coyle and her orchestra as always navigate the hits seamlessly the entire show.
By the end of the night, it’s impossible not to have a new attitude about this season of life as the audience is invited to join the actors on stage for a celebratory dance.
The theater is now in the midst of a fundraising campaign to restore its light bulb marquee, and it’s no surprise that they want to highlight their offerings with quality productions such as “Menopause The Musical.”
The Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts, 2 East Main St. Smithtown, will present “Menopause The Musical” through Oct. 27. Running time is 90 minutes with no intermission. Performances are 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. on Sundays. Tickets range from $36 to $40. For more information, visit www.smithtownpac.org or call 631-724-3700.