Menopause the Musical by Jeanie Linders. Director Gary Young, musical director Paul Keelan, choreographer Andrew Hallsworth. Presented by G4 Productions at The Playhouse, Tue & Thu-Fri 8pm, Wed 1pm & 8pm, Sat 2pm & 8pm, Sun 2pm, February 19 – March 2, 2008. Bookings 6275 2700.
A woman friend wondered why a man “was sent” to review this high energy “hilarious celebration of women and The Change”. I wasn’t sent. I chose to go, and when I discovered that the director of the Australian production, and the musical director, and the choreographer are all men, I certainly didn’t feel out of place. Having passed, vicariously, through menopause myself, I thoroughly enjoyed the celebration, though not with quite the same sense of identity experienced by many in the audience who clapped, cheered and whistled throughout the show.
The four performers in the Canberra season, Caroline Gillmer (The Power Woman), Carolyn Waddell (The Earth Mother), Donna Lee (The Dubbo Housewife) and Vivien Davies (The Soap Star) are a well-bonded team, all highly skilled singers, dancers and comedians. On opening night I found myself watching the Dubbo Housewife the most, maybe because this character has the most change to go through, from inhibited mouse to shaking all over, but also because Lee communicated so directly with the audience in every scene. Gillmer, I thought, was the most versatile singer. Her Fever was imbued with deeply felt hot flushes. It was great comedy, yet sung with a strength reminiscent of the original Peggy Lee.
Being of a certain age myself, audio quality can be an issue. Volume was no problem. Perhaps there was more than strictly necessary in the relatively small Playhouse. But I find the use of face-microphones a bit disconcerting, because the sound comes down from somewhere on high instead of from the mouths of the actors. These mics have become the norm, but I think a well-mixed array of directed shotgun mics, especially with such good singers in this theatre, can produce realistic stereo and make the sound warmer.
I also think the show lacks a strong story-line, making it basically a song-and-dance show rather than a traditional musical. After the celebration, worthy though that is, and the excellent comic performances, I’m left feeling a bit distant without a gutsy story to remember and reflect on. But maybe, that’s entertainment, and the show should certainly go on.
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