Sisterhood at the Mishler: ‘Menopause The Musical’ brings bond, healing to stage

The Mishler Theatre in Altoona recently installed central air conditioning, and its most appreciative audience might just be coming up.

“Menopause The Musical,” which takes a humorous look at a woman’s change of life that includes hot flashes and night sweats, will hit the local stage for one night only on June 25.

The show, which is presented by GFour Productions, features four women – the Iowa housewife, the soap star, the “Earth mother” and the professional woman – who meet at a department store’s lingerie sale. Seemingly with little in common at first, the women form a bond through their shared experience of going through “the change.”

And that bond makes its way into the crowd.

The audience “can expect to have a great time and probably laugh harder than they’ve ever laughed in the theater before. That’s kind of the given,” director Seth Greenleaf said in a recent phone interview from New York. “But I think that what will surprise them is the sense of sisterhood and community that they’ll feel with the audience that they see the show with, and they’ll walk out together smiling at each other and feeling like they kind of just went through this transformation with a roomful of friends rather than strangers.”

The percentage of repeat business for the show is high, said Greenleaf, whose other work includes directing the play “RFK: A Portrait of Robert F. Kennedy,” and producing “9 to 5 The Musical” with Dolly Parton.

“People want to share the experience, they want to share that sisterhood with others and they often love to bring those people back,” he said. “Normally, shows that are successful have great word of mouth. I see a show and then I say to you, ‘Oh my God, the show’s fantastic. You have to see it.’ But with this show, what we find is that I see the show and then I want to bring you to see the show because I want to see you having the reaction to the show that I had originally, because some of the laughs come from such a deep release inside of you to be able to laugh about these kind of topics and to realize you’re not alone. You also want to be there and kind of share it with people.”

The show, which includes musical parodies from the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s, was written by Jeanie Linders.

“The overall reaction from women, and men, that see the show is overwhelming,” actress Teri Adams, currently playing the Iowa housewife, said in an email. “So many women have told [me] and others, ‘Oh my God! Thank you for this, I thought I was alone!’ The empowerment we see in the audience’s eyes night after night is just as empowering to us onstage.”

The show isn’t just for women, though.

“Men love the show. I think they are often dragged to the show and think they aren’t going to enjoy it,” Adams said. “We meet men and their wives after shows all the time and I gotta say, sometimes the men say they had more fun than their wives did.”

The off-Broadway hit, which Greenleaf said helped transform menopause from yesterday’s whispered taboo to today’s more open discussion, premiered about 12 years ago.

The show is “adorable, hilarious, very clever, nostalgic,” but even stronger is the understanding women gained that they were going through something normal together, Greenleaf said.

“I think it stopped the suffering in silence, and it created a dialogue and maybe, most importantly, a sense of humor about the whole topic,” he said. As a result he thinks, “there was really a profound healing.”

The show reminds the audience that while menopause, a huge transition in a woman’s life, is the end of one chapter, it’s also the start of a new one, coming at a time when most women are regaining their freedom, he said.

“So the way … Linders, the author, has sort of structured the show is that it’s a kind of rite of passage and looking at your life and saying, ‘What’s next for me?'” he said. “And it’s much more empowering than seeing menopause simply as the end of one thing, because it really is symbolically the beginning of something new.”

Mirror Staff Writer Amanda Gabeletto is at 949-7030.