A pause for bras and the cause

Menopause: The Musical celebrates survivors

By Marsha Bonhart

Photo: Linda Boston, Megan Cavanagh, Teri Adams and Judy Blue star in Menopause: The Musical Nov. 21-22 at the Victoria Theatre

What woman doesn’t love a clothing sale? Put lingerie in the mix—more specifically a black bra, complete with lace—and you have a great day at any department store. You may have seen the annual “running of the brides” at Filene’s or personally braved the wild crowds at any Black Friday shopping, but neither can outrival the engaging convergence in the comedic, Menopause: The Musical, the Survivor Tour. For the purpose of this entertaining musical comedy, the crowd at the retail store is small. Four women, with different symptoms, but each is celebrating living long enough to share menopause.

Ah, “the change.” We’ve come a long way, Baby. That part of life is no longer whispered, there is no more shame, women have finally understood it’s a normal condition of aging and relatives no longer think their menopausal family members are crazy. Well, I can’t guarantee that, but much has been studied and better understood over the last few decades about this particular time of being when the sun sets over the ovaries and they stop releasing the monthly egg, marking the end of reproduction.

The characters in Menopause: The Musical have a good time lyrically expressing the stories of their symptoms, parodying songs from the latter half of the last century—The Professional Woman, played by Linda Boston, flips Aretha Franklin’s “Chain of Fools” to, “Change of Life.” Sixties era folk singers, Peter, Paul and Mary never knew their beloved song, “Puff, the Magic Dragon” would have an audience swaying to, “Puff, my God, I’m Draggin’” as they wave their hand fans to cool from waves of spiking hot flashes.

Each of the Menopause: The Musical actors is of that certain age. So, we can probably count on the outstanding performances being based upon personal experience. It’s not all they share. Teri Adams, who plays the role of the Iowa Housewife, Judy Blue (Soap Star) and Megan Cavanagh  (Earth Mother) are all surviving breast cancer. Boston is a co-survivor, having had family members diagnosed.

A routine mammogram in 2014 showed a 9mm tumor in Megan Cavanagh’s breast. She wasn’t supposed to have known the results until the next Tuesday, so when her phone rang early that Monday morning, her heart sank. The diagnosis was invasive carcinoma. Then a follow up MRI showed five more tumors.

“I had a partial mastectomy and four lymph nodes removed from under my left arm. Three of the four lymph nodes tested positive for cancer so I was back under the knife a week later to remove seven more lymph nodes—which, thankfully, all came back negative.” That meant she had to endure chemotherapy and radiation.

Cavanagh says people are more open about talking about breast cancer, and the show is actually helping by kicking the conversation door open.

“We are all in this together and empowering each other,” she says. “With three survivors doing a show there is energy—we are saying we are here for you and you are not alone. You are a part of a huge sisterhood.”

The American Cancer Society reports in 2015, there will be an estimated 231,840 new cases of invasive breast cancer and more than 40 thousand are expected to die from that disease. It is the second leading cause of cancer death among women. Those statistics and the health history of the cast members have moved the production officials to donate a percentage of ticket sales in each location to the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.

Menopause: The Musical gives each character their own set of symptoms, because that’s how it happens off the stage. Comparing what happens to your body during menopause can strike up many long conversations among friends. Some experience hot flashes, others may only get cold—and then there is the hair thinning, the personality change, the weight gain and the list of discomfort goes on.

“We have all lived long enough to get there, so we are preaching to the choir,” says Cavanagh, who admits to being “a complete, sweaty mess.”

She says the entertainment has no intermission, the actors sing and dance right without stopping until the production ends. “If we don’t make your cheeks hurt from laughing, we haven’t done our job,” says the veteran thespian.

Cavanagh tells us the loosely written script even appeals to the men in the audience. The actors make sure the men are included in a way to help them understand what the women in their lives are experiencing. She says the musical should be a mandatory workshop for all men because they can relate to some of the symptoms of menopause such as losing their hair and gaining weight around the middle. Plus, she says, the Viagra ads should signal that men have their own form of aging.

Menopause: The Musical comes to Dayton Nov. 21 and 22 at the Victoria Theatre, 138 N. Main St. For tickets and more information, visit victoriatheatre.com.

Marsha Bonhart is an assistant vice president of public relations and programs at Wilberforce University, the nation’s first private, historically black college. Reach her at MarshaBonhart@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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