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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, April 4, 2008

'Menopause' is fun, and for both sexes

By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Clockwise, from front, Janis Roeton as Earth Mother; Liz Hyde as the Iowa Housewife; Monique Whittington as the Power or Professional Woman; and Nancy Slusser as the Soap Star in "Menopause the Musical."

TOC Productions Inc.

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Premieres at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday; plays at 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, and 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays, through April 20

Hawai'i Theatre

$30 opening night; $125 opening night package, includes VIP seating and post-show party at Compadres Bar & Grill, to benefit the Women's Cancer Center at Kapi'olani Medical Center; $35, $45 for Friday-Saturday evenings and Saturday-Sunday matinees; $30, $40 for other performances

528-0506, www.hawaiitheatre.com; opening night gala, 732-7733; group sales (10 percent discount for 15 or more, exclusive of opening night), 237-3675

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Some of the parodies you'll hear in "Menopause the Musical" — and the originators:

  • "My Thighs" ("My Guy," Mary Wells).

  • "Drippin' and "Droppin' " ("Wishin' and Hopin,' " Dusty Springfield)

  • "Thank You Doctor" ("Help Me Rhonda," The Beach Boys)

  • "It's on My Thighs" ("The Shoop Shoop Song," also known as "It's in His Kiss," Betty Everett; also, Cher)

  • "I'm Flashing" ("I'm Sorry," The Platters)

  • "Stayin' Awake" ("Staying Alive," The Bee Gees)

  • "Change Change Change" ("Chain of Fools," Aretha Franklin)

  • "My Husband Sleeps Tonight" ("The Lion Sleeps Tonight," The Tokens)

  • "Puff, My God, I'm Draggin' " ("Puff the Magic Dragon," Peter Paul & Mary)

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    It's written by a woman, it targets women, and it deals with womanly issues such as hot flashes, night sweats and niggling wrinkles.

    But Jeanie Linders' "Menopause the Musical," opening a two-week run Tuesday at the Hawai'i Theatre, appeals to everyone. Yes, women of all ages — the young, the mature, the seniors — who drag along boyfriends, spouses and parents, sometimes kids. There's some delicate but hokey fun, all about The Change facing women at a particular time of their lives.

    "Everyone has a good time," said Janis Roeton, one of a four-woman ensemble, about folks who flock to experience "Meno-pause." She portrays Earth Mother in the musical.

    Why does this show touch a nerve?

    "The big appeal is the music. Aside from (Irving Berlin's 1933) 'Heat Wave,' which we do as 'I'm Having a Hot Flash,' the songs are all parodies of stuff from the 1960s and '70s," said Roeton, speaking by phone from Napa, Idaho, one of the pre-Honolulu stops. "So everyone knows the songs."

    The lyrics are rewritten to suit the theme of mood shifts, life changes, sex or lack of it, and, yes, hot flashes.

    Surprisingly, said Roeton, her troupe — which includes Liz Hyde as the Iowa Housewife, Monique Whittington as the Power or Professional Woman, and Nancy Slusser as the Soap Star — is one of 27 touring companies in North America right now; the 28th is in Toronto.

    "(Show creator) Jeanie employs more Actors Equity folks than any other production company," she said. "And with so many companies on tour, a lot of women over 40 are also getting jobs."

    Familiarity is what fuels the show — and the response from the spectators.

    "Women get up to dance, even younger girls, because they know the songs," Roeton said. "It's memorable stuff (see list of selected tunes) to our target audience."

    The show has particular appeal to women over 40 who are facing menopausal issues, but men (who initially may be shy about attending) love it, too, Roeton said.

    "It's universal," she said about the four principal "types" fashioned by creator Linders, "because the four women are the faces of herself."

    The Earth Mother, said Roeton of her part, "is lost in the 1960s and establishes the time line in the show. I love her because she wears tie-dyed clothes, flat shoes and lots of jewelry. I remember those times."

    The casting call usually is for players 35 to 55, said Roeton. "You never can tell how old anyone is; and some of the older performers are the most beautiful, the most dynamic," she said, declining to reveal her own age.

    The show is set at a lingerie sale at Bloomingdale's, that New York shopping mecca, and is a celebration of life after 40 and what is euphemistically dubbed The Silent Passage.

    Roeton has been a performer since she was 16, dancing in theme-park shows in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, notably at Six Flags Over Texas. Over time, she sang with the New Christy Minstrels, did a round of dinner theaters, and operated her own dance studio in Arlington, Texas, for 22 years.

    She also performed at the Casa Maρana's Children's Playhouse in Fort Worth.

    "I lucked out when I joined 'Menopause,' " she said. "It's made it possible for me to finally go to Honolulu — though I flew through the city once, when I went to the Big Island."

    As Earth Mother, she chirps "Sign of the Times," the Petula Clark oldie, and "Drippin' and Droppin,' " the Dusty Springfield classic known as "Wishin' and Hopin.' " "I've been doing the show so long, I forget the original hit titles sometimes," she chuckled, struggling to recall the origins of "Drippin.' "

    The show draws repeat fans constantly, she said, and occasionally has the cult elements of "The Rocky Horror Show," where fans start chanting or singing along to the tunes.

    "If I stop and breathe during a song, they'll shout the words, or do background oooh-ooohs," Roeton said.

    A "YMCA" parody late in the show gets folks up on their feet and dancing — "real good audience participation," she said.

    For Roeton, the greatest joy of doing "Menopause" is the happiness it brings the audience.

    "Audience reaction is what makes it so wonderful and a privilege to do," she said.

    Reach Wayne Harada at wharada@honoluluadvertiser.com.