Seth Greenleaf claims he’s been through menopause about 1,500 times. He’s no medical oddity: a male suffering through hormonal hot flashes, roller-coaster mood swings, unwanted weight gain and wrinkles. Greenleaf, artistic director of GFour Productions, has served as director of the wildly successful cult classic Menopause The Musical, which stops in at the Warner Theatre in the District for a brief three-show run June 13-14.
“It’s very easy to look at the show as a silly little farce of a musical,” Greenleaf acknowledged, two weeks ago from New York, where he was gearing up for the Tony Awards. “But there’s actually quite a bit going on in there and I don’t know why, but it was easy for me to see what was important.”
Kathi Glist, one of the co-founders of GFour, noted that it was inspired by a hot flash and a bottle of wine. Writer Jeanie Linders created a show that speaks intimately and personally to women of a certain age celebrating their lives as wives, mothers, grandmothers and, most importantly, women in transition. The 90-minute show is part group therapy session, part sing-along, part bonding experience.
Four strangers meet in the lingerie department of Bloomingdales and find that as different as they are from each other, they still discover they have far more in common than they initially thought. Linders, who created and initially produced the show on a shoestring, is no longer involved in the production, but her ideas and inspiration remain, along with the goofy, toe-tapping pop tunes that parody and celebrate this often off-limits subject: a woman’s “change of life.”
“This little show is an absolute phenomenon,” exclaimed Glist, from her Florida office where GFour is based. “We’re not just entertaining women, we’re empowering them to feel better about themselves at a point in life when they typically don’t.”
“I’ve watched women walk into the theater carrying life’s burdens with them, and the hidden burdens of change of life,” she continued, “and I know they walk out feeling better about themselves.”
Menopause,” the show, opens up a conversation on a topic that frequently, even today, women avoid discussing with friends and families. It has become, Glist noted, a forum and gathering point for women of the sandwich generation, many caught between growing children and aging parents and their own bodies’ physical and emotional changes.
“I started working with the show when I was 50,” she continued, “and now I’m turning 63. I didn’t have a terrible menopause, but I feel like I went to sleep one night with a flat stomach and work up with a tummy.” Plenty of women can relate. Menopause, the physiological function, doesn’t discriminate and every woman reaches that milestone sooner or later. “We all go through it. What this show has done is bring it out of the closet and help us all feel better about ourselves,” Glist said.
Women across the country and around the world who see the show and return again and again, with friends, family, and spouses and partners, building a sisterhood of sorts that crosses ethnic, economic, cultural and social barriers.
And, while Jewish women didn’t, of course, invent menopause, Greenleaf pointed out that American Jewish women were often more outspoken about the M word. “As Jews, we don’t tend to develop diseases of repression, of keeping it all in and not saying anything,” he said. “We love to talk about our symptoms, we’re complainers and we don’t hold a lot in. I also think that’s a positive, a good trait in our culture. We put it all out there which I love.”
And, as Greenleaf has learned, from spending years with Menopause, the show isn’t only for women. “Men walk in slumped over, dreary, dragged in by their wives and partners,” Glist said. “But it’s entertaining, with toe-tapping songs that our generation grew up with. And like, one guy in Seattle said to me after seeing the show, ‘This should be a mandatory workshop for all men.’ ”
While critics may snub the show for its lowbrow, populist slant, that doesn’t bother Glist. Aside from being the longest-running musical in Las Vegas, she said, Menopause the Musical is a show that creates a sisterhood and allows women to grow and thrive, even late in life. I call it humor replacement therapy.”
Menopause the Musical is onstage June 13-14 for three performances at the Warner Theatre in the District. For tickets visit www.ticketmaster.com or call 800-551-7328. Group discounts for 10+ are also available by calling 888-686-8587 ext. 2.