Skilled performers put hot flash in 'Menopause'

Jeanie Linders, the creator of “Menopause The Musical” noted recently that the title subject used to be “something women didn’t talk about.”

She sure cured that.

The musical hit appeals to a very defined demographic. Those who don’t fit into it could suggest an alternate title: “T.M.I.”

“I’m having a hot flash!” one character proclaims to the Irving Berlin standard “Heat Wave.”

That’s nothing compared to the imagery that transforms Dusty Springfield’s “Wishin’ and Hopin’ ” into a thesaurus of very wet words: “Drippin’ and droppin’ and plinkin’ and ploppin’,” so you “fan it and dam it and blot it and wipe it.”

Thanks for sharing. Except that most of the audience is taking it in its intended, Mad magazine-for-the-AARP spirit, thanks to the tone set by the four skilled performers in charge of selling it.

And that audience demographic? Turns out it’s wider than you think.

Yes, this is a show that refers to us Y-chromasomers as “them” and (spoiler alert) a vibrator turns out to be the cure-all for depression. But, judging from one early evening at the Luxor, “Menopause” rolls up a whole demographic of middle-age and senior couples who have few other choices for — as a pre-show announcement puts it — “live professional theater” on the Strip.

“Menopause” celebrated 3,000 Las Vegas performances in April. And during the summer, Linders came into the unique position of competing with herself. After a litigious fallout with her producing partners, Linders signed over the U.S. rights to “Menopause” and opened a new one, “The D* Word,” at the Las Vegas Hotel.

Seeing that one (reviewed last month) made me curious to take a new look at the original. But after I saw it came the news that “D* Word” is closing Sunday. No real surprise though. “Menopause” is still formidable competition, delivered with the authority of those 3,000-plus repetitions, with some cast members along for the whole ride.

Only one of them was working this show: Laura Lee O’Connell as Iowa Housewife (the characters aren’t cluttered with names). Fusing Lucille Ball mugging with Edith Bunker’s voice, topped by a surreal dash of Curly from the Three Stooges, O’Connell has been struggling to wedge herself into a slingshot of a negligee since the show opened at the Las Vegas Hilton in 2006.

The Housewife meets three other archetypes at Bloomingdale’s, where they realize they all have a common bond in “the change.” Professional Woman (Lisa Mack) is the R&B belter who preserves the power of songs such as “Chain of Fools” beyond their parody lyrics (“Change of Life”).

Two other original Las Vegas cast members still come in and out of the show: Vita Corimbi as the tie-dye ’60s Earth Mother and Paige O’Hara (almost famous from Disney’s “Beauty and the Beat”) as the Soap Star, whose self-denial about being replaced on TV drives the sketch of a story.

On this summer day, Kittra Coomer was a rockin’ Earth Mother and the Soap Star was the endearing Lori Legacy, whom locals might remember as Dolly Parton in “Honky Tonk Angels” at the Gold Coast. The bullpen is deep here, though some of the women are homogenous enough to tip off viewers that they cover more than one role.

Linders must have wished for a longer list of menopause symptoms when she started bonding jokes to pop standards, trying to find different ways to spin a mood swing. Never has a show relied more on the sound of a flushing toilet, and I was never sure why the “Hot Flash” tune needs to be heard twice.

But for the most part, the jokes stretch enough. Sometimes they really need the music, such as “Stayin’ Awake” enabling the disco choreography for “Stayin’ Alive.” But just as often, the wordplay speaks for itself: “In the guest room or on the sofa my husband sleeps tonight,” goes this version of “Lion Sleeps Tonight.”

It makes you wonder why Linders denied herself what seems to be her chief creative strength when she opted to use pop songs as written, without parody lyrics, in “The D* Word.” Maybe she will rethink that. But for now? It looks like no one, not even its own author, messes with the “Menopause.”

Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at mweatherford@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0288.