‘Menopause The Musical’ and ‘Voices of a Generation’

It’s hard to say which is more predictable: Las Vegas summer heat or the afternoon shows that let you escape it.

Perennial favorite Mac King always gives you a reason to dry off from the pool. But each summer brings new gunslingers looking for a showdown with the sheriff at high noon.

"Amazed," featuring Tim Gabrielson — whose comedy-magic is so similar he has filled in for King during vacations — opens Saturday in the V Theater.

This year’s new impressionist is Rich Natole, who takes the entry rung on the Vegas show-biz ladder with a Harmon Theater gig that lacks the casino promotion he would need to survive in lieu of material fresher than his Paul Lynde.

The most interesting twist? Next-door theatrical titles with apologetic explanations of both sexes: "Defending the Caveman" at the Excalibur and "Menopause The Musical" recently transplanted to Luxor.

Granted, a new 5:30 p.m. start time (except Tuesdays) pushes "Menopause" right into the dinner hour of its prime demographic. But producers are talking about a "Happy Hot-Flash Hour" in the lobby before the show, with people taking dinner reservations.

Cocktails otherwise take a lesser role in "Menopause" with its move from the Las Vegas Hilton’s Shimmer Cabaret to the steeply tiered theater shared by Carrot Top and "Fantasy."

Whatever loose atmosphere is lost by servers not stepping into the spotlight is made up by better sight lines and the four players getting to spread out. The set even includes a very-Vegas lighted staircase now.

The cast is stronger than ever, with three veteran pros joined by Emily David, top-billed as Queen Emily, as she was known in her own Susan Boyle moment on "America’s Got Talent" last year.

It’s the perfect gig for the contestant who otherwise might have drifted back to obscurity. Here, David gets to show off her knock-down voice while brushing up her acting chops with the minimal demands of the script.

When David uncorks "Chain of Fools," you wish you could hear the Aretha Franklin version instead of the "Menopause" parody "Change of Life." David is Professional Woman, one of four characters named only by archetype and each representing one aspect of the female persona.

Soap Star (Paige O’Hara) is the sexy side, but threatened by the idea of fading appeal. Laura Lee O’Connell is Earth Mother, the hippie gone New Age. And Iowa Housewife (Annette Verdolino) doesn’t yet have an empty nest back home when she makes her first trip to the Big Apple.

(The four actresses are each spelled at least once a week by Sandra Benton, Cheryl Spencer or Lori Legacy, whom locals might remember from "Honky-Tonk Angels.")

The four meet cute fighting over bras at Bloomingdales, and spend the next 90 minutes singing their way through the department store and commiserating about "the change" with song parodies heavy on excretion: "Night Sweatin’ " or "Fan it, dab it, blot it," etc.

Husbands deciding whether to hide in the sports book should know it’s all in the performance level. Each gal gets a winning turn in the spotlight, from O’Hara’s turning "Heat Wave," er, "Hot Flash" into a torchy ballad to Verdulino’s sumo-wrestling a flimsy negligee.

The only complaint about this particular combo is that Verdolino and O’Connell — who has played Housewife in the past — come off less like contrasting archetypes than twin sisters, down to the same Lucy-like mugging and Edith Bunker squawk.

Edith and Archie are among the "Voices of a Generation" saluted by Natole. Which generation? Ask Lt. Columbo in the Harmon Theatre showcase redeemed only by Natole’s inherent likability. The sparse crowd on this particular afternoon never gave up on him, even though it took 45 minutes for him to come down from the stage and connect directly.

Maybe it helped Natole to show his two kids in the opening video, which also goofs on his obscurity. You always hope an impressionist will offer some new characters. Or if he does the stock voices, that he might give the Gordie Brown effort of voicing them with original material. Natole is strictly off the shelf in both departments: Richard Simmons and Charles Nelson Reilly auditioning for "Dirty Harry"!

He did work an Obama voice into the act faster than some of his counterparts. But two people called to the stage for "Name That Voice" didn’t peg John McCain.

The impression wasn’t so great, but still. Some people don’t come in out of the heat soon enough.

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

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