Four women and a show that is still enjoying a hot flush of success
PUBLISHED: 17:11 02 March 2017 | UPDATED: 09:50 07 March 2017
Copyright Tarleton Photography - Photographer Graham Moreton
The change of life is the subject for an all-singing comedy that has become a critic-proof sensation. EastEnders’ Cheryl Fergison and Casualty’s Rebecca Wheatley talk Menopause the Musical.
Hot flushes, cheesy musical numbers and a lot of funny women, Menopause the Musical, the cult American show ‘celebrating the change’, is back in the region playing to audiences loving a laugh and instant recognition at the subject matter.
The all-singing, all-dancing comedy, packed full of one-liners about night sweats, hot flushes and memory loss, backed by an instantly recognisable soundtrack of innuendo-laden versions of 1960s, 70s and 80s pop classics, has proved to be a theatre-packing, critic-proof success since its UK premiere.
The musical is about embracing the fears and embarrassment of the dreaded menopause. Four women meet in a shopping centre, all from different backgrounds but with one thing in common - the menopause. They bond over hot flushes, night sweats, irritability and red faces.
Best known for playing Heather Trott in Eastenders before her departure from the soap, Cheryl Fergison is currently on her second tour of the production in a cast that also includes Maureen Nolan, star of BBC hospital drama Casualty Rebecca Wheatley, and Ruth Berkeley, who you may recognise from Penny Dreadful.
Cheryl describes it as an ‘uplifting’ musical exploring the unlikely subject of the menopause but with lots of fun and songs which have been rewritten in order to ‘capture the mood’ of the experience.
“It’s a musical for everyone,” she explains. “Women who are currently going through menopause will be there like ‘yes I understand this! That’s me”, women who have that to come will be saying ‘oh so that’s why my mum’s been like that’. Even partners or sons of women will be able to enjoy it and empathise with the ladies in their lives.”
Though she also states the audience is usually made up of 90% women and 10% men, the actress claims that the songs make it enjoyable for everyone.
She comments: “It’s a really fun tour. There’s loads of great upbeat songs, tunes that everyone will recognise but with the lyrics changed, which essentially makes it even funnier because they then reflect how the characters are feeling.
“The response we get from the audience is always great, and they always tell us it’s really relatable. It’s hilarious when the audience has had a few drinks as well cause then they’re calling out and agreeing with parts of the musical.”
Written by Jeanie Linders, Menopause The Musical debuted in 2001 in Orlando, Florida, in a 76-seat theatre that once housed a perfume shop.
The original American premise revolved around four women shopping for lingerie at New York department store Bloomingdale’s sale singing 25 songs about chocolate cravings, hot flashes, loss of memory, nocturnal sweats, and sexual predicaments.
From these humble origins the show has become a phenomena with audiences flocking to the show in large numbers on countless tours around the world. “Its fun, people laugh from the minute they get in the door to when they leave - that’s the reaction we have,” says Cheryl.
The audience feedback and differing responses is one of the notable things about appearing in the show, she adds.
“We have had lots of different responses. We stay in a lot of Premier Inns, and of the women on reception who came to see it one night said the next morning that she’d had tears in her eyes. She said to me “I have been going through this awful, awful situation for a good eight months now and all I do is cry. It was just joyous to come to the theatre to see an acknowledgement of what is happening to me. It was a real release for her and I think it has been for a lot of women.”
Rebecca Wheatley adds: “This show won’t change your life or stop you taking your clothes off while watching telly. But it will guarantee you a great night out. And having a group of women in one hall all able to laugh at the changes women go through during menopause is a massively uplifting sensation.
“And here’s the thing; the menopause stage isn’t all bad. By the time they hit it women know so much more about themselves. They have a developed confidence, knowledge and a lovely, healthy cynicism about life.”
Rebecca acknowledges that the menopause create some confusion.
“There was a time when women believed that with the arrival of the menopause their attractiveness departed and sex was a thing of the past. Not now,” she said. “Years ago, I’d be having a blue rinse at this stage, not getting my hair dyed flame red. And who wants to surrender to middle age? Not me. I want to be a thoroughly disgraceful fifty-something.”
• Menopause the Musical is at King’s Lynn Corn Exchange on March 4, 7.30pm, £26, 01553 764864, www.kingslynncornexchange.co.uk
• It is also at Ipswich Regent on March 14, 7.30pm, £27.50, 01473 433100, www.ipwichregent.co.uk