Jeanie Linders won’t take issue with the standard, short-tell explanation of “Menopause the Musical” and all the money it has made.
She will even explain it for you.
“I’m one of the odd people that has the ability to create something and the ability to sell it,” she says. “Most artists either paint and draw, or whatever, but they don’t know how to sell what they create. That’s where the whole starving artist concept comes in.”
So in 2001, the Orlando, Fla.-based entrepreneur identified a specific audience as she set about writing a female bonding experience, putting parody lyrics about “the change” to the tunes of familiar pop songs.
To see “Menopause” now is to see how Linders combined her life experience — journalist, owner of an advertising and marketing agency, organizer of street fairs and jazz festivals — into one foolproof engine to ring up box office receipts.
So what if critics generally scratch their heads, or even dismiss the one-joke revue? It’s said to have been seen by more than 11 million people.
“The key to being a successful marketing person is to get your ego out of the way. That’s the bottom line,” the 64-year-old says. “When I had an ad agency, I used to do entertainment and hotel marketing. We didn’t win creative awards for our direct mail campaigns, but we got no less than 6 and sometimes 20 or 25 percent return on our direct mails.
“If you don’t make it about you, but make it about the person you’re writing it for and selling it for, it’s a whole different head thing.”
But that’s not the end of the story. Never was, really.
Just as Linders does not dispute the marketing skill behind “Menopause,” there is also a pride in the product.
It surfaces when she says things like, “It gave a voice to women that needed a voice.”
And, “I’ve always said to everyone who licenses it, ‘If you make it about the women, you’ll make money. If you make it about money, you’ll fail.’ ”
And when she talks about her new project, “The D* Word — A Musical,” you sense more pride still.
This week, Linders became the rare writer with two shows running in Las Vegas, even if she is in a sense competing with herself.
“Menopause” forges on at Luxor, though Linders no longer sees any money from it. She signed away her U.S. rights to settle litigation with her former producing partner, GFour Productions. She says she had to rid herself of health-threatening stress from a long dispute.
Now Linders is free to focus on “The D* Word,” which she created with the LVH’s Shimmer Cabaret specifically in mind, after “Menopause” played more than 1,500 times there from 2006 into 2009.
“There’s a fine line between a club setting and a theater setting,” she says. The Shimmer is both, with a formal stage in front and a handsome bar in back.
And “The D* Word” is what Linders calls “a party show”; every ticket comes with a shot glass on a necklace.
“These girls who are 24, with their short skirts and 6-inch heels, aren’t going to see a theater piece. They come here to party,” she says. “But between (this show’s start time of) 8:30 p.m. and the time they go to the clubs, there is an opportunity to do stuff.”
The new show also reaches beyond menopausal women with a range of issues explained in the subtitle “Ditched, Dumped, Divorced and Dating,” and four cast members representing women in their 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s.
The musical, opening here with the Orlando cast that launched it in January, has its characters meet at a speed-dating event. If the basic premise of accidental sisters belting a “jukebox” score of familiar songs sounds familiar, there are a couple of key differences this time.
First, the songs ranging from the Miracles’ “Shop Around” to Carrie Underwood’s “Before He Cheats” are sung with their original words, not parody lyrics.
And there are only 14 songs, compared to 26 in “Menopause,” leaving room for — gasp! — more characterization and story.
“ ‘Menopause’ is a one-trick show,” Linders says. “You’re singing about symptoms. That’s the one line the characters experience. That’s all the show is about.
“With this, the characters have something to say,” she says. “They all have different back stories. There’s actually a journey these people take. They have a journey where they learn who and what they are.”
Nothing quite like Linders’ own journey though.
When she launched “Menopause” in a 75-seat theater, Linders says her intuition told her it would be a success. “But I had no idea what that meant. Nothing. Zero. I didn’t know it was going to be a heartache,” or that “being a success is a huge responsibility. Huge.”
She tried to follow her success with a show called “Mommies — A Musical Blog.” But this time, the ability to study things from a calculated perspective failed her.
The show was about new mothers not having time to communicate through any means but electronics. “Duh, they don’t need to go to a show and watch themselves connecting,” she says she realized too late.
“The D* Word” will not make the same mistake of misreading its target audience. “And this time around,” Linders proclaims, “I’m going to have a good time and I’m going to laugh.”
Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0288.