Cast your mind back, gentle reader, to the halcyon days of the early days of 2020. Fresh shoots heralded the birth of Spring. The snowdrops of winter survival gave way to the daffodils of hope. We’d reached the 2020s and it was going to be one helluva decade. Alas, we knew not quite how helluva that would turn out to be. Menopause the Musical 2 hit the road with a few happy shows around the country, including the promise of two performances at the Castle Theatre, Wellingborough in April. But then you-know-what happened, and we were all confined to barracks with the occasional Johnson-approved exercise walk in the park (but no stopping).
Fast forward two years and the show – like so many others that got suspended in mid-air – is back on the road. And, I must say, it was well worth the wait. Menopause the Musical 2 is a deceptively modest little show that really packs a punch that I certainly wasn’t expecting. Perhaps if I’d seen Menopause the Musical 1 I might have known more what to expect. For sure, the 95%-plus female audience at the Castle Theatre last night (and what a splendid little venue it is) definitely knew what to expect. After all, most of them had either been or were going through the menopause anyway. I’m not saying you have to be a woman to enjoy this show; but, if not, being on intimate terms with a woman of a certain age helps!
Cruising Through Menopause is the breezy subtitle, and our four nameless heroines, all clearly long-time pals, have joined a cruise to get away from it all (it all mainly being the men in their lives). You’ve got the flamboyant actressy one, whose main job is to advertise the cruise’s sponsor, MyPelvicHealth.co.uk (which I had no idea was genuine, I thought it was made up for the show); you’ve got the hippy-ish one whose fella can’t perform the simplest of domestic tasks without being talked through it; you’ve got the confident, entrepreneurial one whose son has married a right cow and who can’t remember why she walked into a room; and you’ve got the mousey downtrodden one who never goes anywhere without the ashes of her late husband and can’t imagine ever taking up with another man. Add to this the disembodied voice of the ship’s captain, whose manly continental vocal tones can turn knees to jelly, and, as the old News of the World would have said, all human life is here.
The concept is a pretty simple one. We follow them as they get on board, get settled, get eating and drinking, get relaxed, get hot and bothered, get into a karaoke competition, and finally get formal (because they’re going to share the captain’s table; be careful, Captain, that might not be all they share). They’ve all got one thing in common – the menopause; and they’re not afraid to express its delights and disappointments through the medium of song. The songs themselves are for the most part well-known old pop tunes but with changed comedy lyrics, and this is where the real fun of the show is to be found.
There are some genuinely hilarious re-wordings that bring the house down with both their originality and the recognition of just how damn appropriate they are. I could ruin it for you by giving the surprises away, suffice it to say, you’ll never have heard better lyrics to Holding out for a Hero, Knock Three Times or Let’s Hear it for the Boy.
The cast are a truly fun four who blend into a great ensemble, but all bring their individual talents to the fore. Susie Fenwick (hilarious in Beautiful a couple of years ago) is terrific as the flamboyant actressy one; she has a great stage presence and brings huge vitality and dynamism to the role. The hippy-ish one is played by Benidorm’s redoubtable Crissy Rock with an excellent mix of comic timing, world-weariness and experienced savvy, all distilled through her broad Scouse accent.
Eurovision’s Nicki French plays the confident entrepreneurial one with a wicked sense of self-deprecating humour and a brilliant rapport with the audience – and of course she has a fantastic voice to boot. For our performance, the mousey one was played by understudy Katherine Glasson – and she knocked it out of the park, with her hilarious facial expressions and a marvellous downbeat characterisation that changes from ugly duckling into a sensational swan. The show is also strongly enhanced by a fantastic musical backing track that is so full and vivid that you’d swear there was a thirty-piece band at the back of the stage.
The show went down a complete storm with the audience who were instantly on their feet at curtain call. It works a treat because it doesn’t try to be anything that it isn’t – just four talented ladies making us laugh at one of Mother Nature’s most-suffered and least-understood impositions. I hadn’t heard Mrs Chrisparkle laugh so loudly at a show for many a year. The tour continues all the way through to June – pack your Tenas and get booking!
Production photos by whoever the uncredited photographer was!