'Menopause The Musical' rolls with change in Vegas
One half of the global population experiences The Change. The other half sees the effects without an inner understanding of the cause. Menopause The Musical brings both halves together for a staged celebration of moving through phases of life that also enlightens via satires of songs from the ’60s and ’70s. It’s a testament to the talents of its creatives that a production with the audacity to title itself after a significant event in a woman’s life, one that marks the end of one chapter and the beginning of another, will observe its 20th anniversary in Vegas next year.
The ongoing success of Menopause in Las Vegas rests squarely on the shoulders of the performers who embody the four lead roles. Vita Corimbi as Earth Mother, Lisa Mack as Professional Woman, Liz Hyde as Iowa Housewife and Jacquelyn Holland-Wright as Soap Star (Cherity Ellen Harchis is the cast’s swing performer) are much more than archetypes. They watched their mothers go through The Change, most of them went through The Change while performing in Menopause and sing a song in unison titled “Change, Change, Change” (to the tune of Aretha Franklin’s “Chain of Fools”).
They’re also part of one of the few shows on the Strip that works as a matinee and evening show. The last Saturday afternoon in February drew a capacity crowd to Harrah’s Cabaret, where the women of Menopause channeled the enthusiasm of audience members about to have, currently experiencing or past The Change into inspired entertainment.
“I think it happens especially when we have an audience that’s predominantly our demographic, women that are in menopause,” says Mack during a post-show interview. “I looked out today and there were a lot of women in their late 40s and early 50s, and they were with their girlfriends, so they feel free to indulge and laugh. Sometimes when they come with their men, they’re a little reserved at first.”
The title may be intimidating for that other half, but it doesn’t take long for both sexes to warm up once the show begins. The setting is the lingerie department at Bloomingdales, where one particular item simultaneously draws the attention of our four protagonists. The fateful encounter leads to a bonding session and much humor as the relatively worldly ladies clue-in Iowa Housewife to the lighter side of hot flashes, night sweats and extremes in libido.
That’s not to say the show isn’t relatable to younger demographics. The Saturday matinee had a substantial showing of people who looked under 40 and were having as much fun as the silver-haired contingent. “The younger people will enjoy it because their moms or their aunts are going through it,” says Corimbi. “They understand it, too, even though they’re not going through it.”
Generating understanding is one of the primary purposes of Menopause, which premiered five years after The Vagina Monologues debuted. Audiences are usually too busy being entertained in the moment to directly process the benefits of Menopause, which include easing anxiety and anguish, and removing stigmas. The Edith Bunkeresque naiveté of Hyde’s Housewife, the soothing star-child appeal of Corimbi’s Earth Mother, the assertiveness of Holland-Wright’s Soap Star (somewhat reminiscent of Sex and the City’s Samantha Jones) and Mack’s Professional Woman paying stunning homage to Tina Turner combine to create inimitable chemistry and a superlative production.
“It is completely politically correct and timeless for anytime,” says Holland-Wright. “I think that’s the magic of the show, and the other thing is we have Liz, who has been on the road for a long, long time and has played the role (of Iowa Housewife) for 15 years. She’s recently just come back, and the chemistry now between us … I mean, we’ve all gotten along really well but if you want to talk about the magical thing that has happened, it feels like all the parts and pieces just sort of fit. We are really connecting because we are all so vastly different.”
“If we become a sisterhood onstage, the fifth girlfriend that is the audience, they become a part of us,” adds Corimbi. “They become part of our sisterhood, too, so it has nothing to do with male-female or #metoo. Its timeless. I’ve even had men come up to me. This man, recently at a charity event, said that he saw the show and he was going through prostate cancer, and he thanked me so much for making him laugh and forgetting what he was going through. People come here battling breast cancer. One woman said she had six months to live and we made her laugh. It’s amazing.”
The show has superfans, too, several of whom battle cancer. Holland-Wright says one has been to the show more than 25 times and has a standing offer from the producers to be flown to Vegas if she feels up to it after chemotherapy. A man who Soap Star had a particular rapport with at one point in the show is a regular, and the sisterhood estimates one couple as having attended 69 times.
Although the cast has to stick to a script, producers Kathi and Alan Glist give them maximum creative freedom. Corimbi has been with the Vegas version for its entire 15 years, starting when her now college-age daughter was a preschooler. Her doctor informed her when The Change started for her, and she could hardly believe that she had unknowingly performed in Menopause while in menopause.
“That’s the beauty of this show,” she says. “It lets them know that they’re OK. We’re all going to go through it whether you’re 20, or you’re 80 and you already
went through it, or you’re just right in the throes of it in your 40s and 50s. That’s the beauty.”
And the other half? “The men are the first ones on their feet at the end,” says Mack. “They jump up sometimes before the women do.”
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