Reviewed by Deborah Banasko
I have to admit I hadn’t actually heard of Menopause the Musical before, but just the name alone made me smile, and I loved the idea of being able to have a laugh at the menopause before I actually go through it (as I doubt it would seem quite so funny then). I watched the show with a friend who has just entered this phase of her life, and like most of the audience she found the whole show hysterical so perhaps there is hope!
I have been to Bradford Alhambra many times, it’s a short walk from the train station and has a large car-park just around the corner. The theatre itself is modern inside, with a pleasant bar area and relatively quick service. The auditorium is set over three levels with beautiful decor and comfortable seating. I would highly recommend this theatre and have never had a poor experience here.
The musical claims to “celebrate women and the change” and is set over various floors in a department store. Four women, who all happen to be going through the menopause, meet at the underwear sale and initially have a row over a bra. This irrational fall out is blamed on hormones, which starts an hilarious account of the various symptoms of the menopause through well-known songs (with a twist).
The Earth Mother is played by Cheryl Ferguson, and she stole the show for me with her intentional mood swings, fantastic singing and ability to just throw herself into the role. The remaining cast were the Soap Star (Maureen Nolan), The Housewife (Rebecca Wheatley) and the Power Woman (Ruth Berkeley) who had the most amazing voice and energy.
The opening scene was a little disappointing as it lacked the “punch” you get with most musicals from the start. That was soon forgotten as they launched into “Change, Change, Change” and the many amazing songs and quirky dance routines. Berkeley’s re-working of the song “Hot Stuff” (changed to “Hot Sweats”) was genius.
Another favourite which had the audience roaring with laughter was Fergusons’ version of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”. Without giving too much away, the line “…In the guest-room… my husband sleeps tonight” coupled with tribal dancing will give you some indication of the type of humour. Her facial expressions were just brilliant.
My friend tells me that any woman going through the menopause will relate to the lyrics of “I wish we all could be sane and normal girls” (Californian Girls, the Beach Boys). There were so many laughs in this show. I’m still giggling at “My thighs” (also known as My Guy), which isn’t as cheesy as it may sound, and tells the trauma that is weight gain after a certain age.
At one point Nolan came into the audience and sang to one of the few male members, stating that she wasn’t the only one with a hot flush now. She really was so natural and it was a great touch.
The scene that I feel mixed about personally, but had the audience howling with laughter, was The Housewife’s introduction to sex toys. We couldn’t really decide what that had to do with the menopause so it felt out of place, but I have to give credit to Wheatley; she was hilarious and created this character that felt like a toned-down version of Mr Bean. It was worth having this scene for the laughs, but it would perhaps have worked better within a stronger storyline.
There is no real depth to the story… in fact there isn’t really much of a story. You don’t learn a great deal about the characters, and there isn’t the strengthening of friendship between the women which you might expect. However, what the show does do is make you laugh through a series of songs that everyone would recognise. A couple of the actors were guilty of over-acting, but it kind of worked well within the format. The finale could have been a little stronger for me, but I still left the show feeling thoroughly entertained and laughing.
If I had to describe the show in one word, it would be “bonkers”. Whilst it lacked substance, it did give an hilarious account of the many symptoms of menopause from the night sweats to “brain collapse”, medication and the mood swings through a genius re-working of classic songs. It didn’t take itself too seriously – a show called “Menopause the Musical” was never going to be Shakespeare, so come to this show expecting to laugh and listen to some amazing voices and you will not be disappointed. It is refreshing for women to be able to watch a show that resonates with us all, so that we can have a giggle at ourselves.
I would award the show 4 stars out of 5 – brilliantly bonkers, but I would have liked a little more story.
For more information about Menopause the Musical visit www.menopauseuk.com.
For other shows at the Alhambra Theatre in BRadford visit www.bradford-theatres.co.uk.
Alhambra Theatre, Morley Street, Bradford, BD7 1AJ | 01274 432000