By Holly Van Auken
© November 8, 2012
It's the most fun you can have with your clothes on.
That's how both "Menopause The Musical" director Seth Greenleaf and producer Ken Greenblatt describe the hugely popular international show, running this weekend at the Sandler Center.
The 90-minute touring performance - which is 70 percent music, featuring song parodies from the '60s, '70s and '80s - takes a hilarious look at "the change" by way of four women who meet in the lingerie department of a department store.
Other than a black lace bra, the ladies - a professional, an Earth Mother, an Iowa housewife and a soap star - seem to have nothing in common on the surface, but ultimately end up bonding over hot flashes, night sweats, memory loss, wrinkles, mood swings, chocolate binges and sexual issues - among other things.
"It puts things out there that have never been discussed in public," Greenblatt said of the production, which debuted in March 2001, and has since entertained audiences in more than 450 U.S. cities and 300 international cities across 15 countries.
"It's very special in the craziest kind of way," he said. "It's not just a show. It's a happening."
Greenleaf, who has been directing the show for the past five years, agrees. "There's a reason that a tiny show that started in an abandoned storefront in Florida has been seen by over 10 million people."
With many of them really getting into the production.
"I've never seen (such a strong) reaction to any show in my life," said Greenblatt, who knows a thing or two about theater, with his South Florida-based production company's shows having scored 37 Tony Awards. These audiences "have never had a better time in their life. They go bonkers!"
Greenblatt recalled all kinds of stories from past performances - general recollections of women cracking up, mascara running down their faces, to a specific instance in Alabama, when an 18-year-old girl nearly fell in his lap with laughter, pointing at the stage and saying "That's my mother!"
While the audience base is 92 percent female, Greenblatt said "every man who sees it loves it," even one skeptical fella in Florida, who, after finding his seat, curled up in a ball - head down and knees up on the seat in front of him.
When Greenblatt asked him what was wrong, the guy put an angry finger in his wife's face and said, she "forced me to come."
"I told him, 'If you don't like the show, I'll give you your money back,' " Greenblatt recalled. "At the end of the show, he jumped up and hugged me and wanted to buy the CD."
There are inspirational stories associated with "Menopause," too, including a woman living with cancer who saw it 18 times as an escape from her chemotherapy treatment.
"It's a movement," Greenleaf said, adding that cast member Kim Harris has referred to "Menopause" as a "ministry" because once women see it, they spread the word, and they come back with friends. These are women who have raised their families and are "coming back into their own."
"There's a great empowerment element, being surrounded by women who have experienced the same thing," he said. "There's no describing the energy in the theater. It's magical."
Greenleaf added, "I'm not sure I've ever been part of a production that touches audiences quite like this."
"It's like a rock concert for women," Greenblatt said. "It's a wonderful experience that you can't describe until you see it."
What "Menopause The Musical"
Where Sandler Center for the Performing Arts, 201 Market St., Virginia Beach
When 8 p.m. Friday; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday
Cost $43, $50
More info www.sandlercenter.org
Holly Van Auken, email@example.com