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'Menopause the Musical': the worldwide hit humouring an oft-ignored female phenomenon

“It has a little dig about the men sleeping on the sofa or heading out to Bunnings, laying low, ducking wide to avoid the mood swing that might be coming.”

Night sweats. Mood swings. Hot flashes. Now, Menopause the Musical aims to add one more symptom to the list: laughter. A new production of the hit Off-Broadway musical, adapted for Australian audiences, follows four women of a certain age as they grapple with an oft-ignored aspect of the female experience.
 
Alli Pope-Bailey tweaked the musical’s script and has helmed the reworked Aussie production that has played over 120 times to appreciative reviews. Additionally, Pope-Bailey currently plays the role of “Dubbo housewife", drawing on her experience as a comedic performer.
 
“To be honest, what drew me to the whole production of Menopause the Musical was the fact that it was a very relatable topic,” says Pope-Bailey. “It’s a funny thing, menopause, because it’s always been swept under the carpet, but it’s something every woman, in some shape or form, will experience. It’s perfectly normal to have menopausal symptoms: some women have slight flashes, but some people have the absolute worst of everything to the max … You see ladies in the audience looking at you and laughing, because they relate.”
 
In Pope-Bailey’s Menopause the Musical, the Dubbo housewife meets up with a forty-something professional woman, a sandals-wearing earth mother and a glamorous soap star, where the quartet sing about their ailments, their chocolate cravings and their sexual foibles.
 
“It’s a very unusual group of women who come together with absolutely nothing in common, to begin with,” explains Pope-Bailey. “Then, they realise they do have something in common: menopause … They generate this sisterhood, which is lovely.”
 
Menopause the Musical’s soundtrack consists of parodies of universally recognised hits whose lyrics have been humorously reworked: the Bee Gees’ ‘Stayin’ Alive’, for instance, becomes ‘Stayin’ Awake’. One of Pope-Bailey’s favourite tunes from the show is ‘My Husband Sleeps Tonight’, japing on ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’.
 
“It has a little dig about the men sleeping on the sofa or heading out to Bunnings, laying low, ducking wide to avoid the mood swing that might be coming,” she says.
 
Pope-Bailey’s husband, John Bailey, with whom she co-founded Jally Entertainment during the noughties, isn’t making himself scarce: in fact, he’s responsible for designing and building the production’s sets. Though stage performers, almost by definition, attract most of the limelight, Pope-Bailey hopes that the stagehands and other behind-the-scenes workers will receive some appreciation for this technically complex show.
 
Menopause the Musical has attracted plenty of men as well as women, says Pope-Bailey, who suspects that some women may see it as an educational opportunity for their husbands. Despite the weightiness of the subject matter – health, ageing and so forth – Menopause the Musical uses a light touch to make these topics seem a little less serious.
 
“As soon as we come out on stage, it’s pumping,” says Pope-Bailey. “The ladies in the audience are ready for a good night out. They’re ready to relax and enjoy themselves. Sometimes they’ve had a couple of bubbles or a bite to eat, and they’re really with us: cheering and laughing and clapping. It’s just a great, great atmosphere, and we have a great time ourselves. It’s probably the funnest, easiest job I’ve ever had in my life … There’s a genuine feeling of family, and the audience picks up on that.”
 
Topical as the themes of Menopause the Musical may seem, the show has been in production almost continuously since its 2001 debut in Orlando. Having played successfully from Detroit to Dublin, with a production at Harrah’s Las Vegas running since 2006, it’s evident that Menopause is, for better or worse, a universal phenomenon.
 
Pope-Bailey is looking forward to bringing Menopause the Musical to Crown in her native Melbourne, and hopes that the show will help bring some levity to audiences’ increasingly complicated lives.
 
“If everybody comes out smiling, laughing, joking, happy, I’m happy,” says Pope-Bailey. “That’s all we want: for people to have a great time. Everybody’s got a serious life these days, and there’s a lot of drama going on in the world and in people’s backyards. This is a celebration of sisterhood, and I love to see people relaxing and smiling.”

Menopause the Musical will play at The Palms at Crown from Tuesday November 20 through to Sunday November 25.