Monday, Feb. 27, 2006 | 7:39 a.m.
What: "Menopause the Musical"
When: 7 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays; 2 p.m. Wednesdays; 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturdays; 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. Sundays; dark Fridays
Where: Hilton's Shimmer Cabaret
Rating (out of five stars): 5 stars
Pass the fans, "Menopause" is sweeping the nation.
This ode to aging, hot flashes, angry outbursts, inexplicable sobs and female bonding may be the most popular show in Las Vegas at the moment, with every performance selling out almost as soon as tickets become available.
There are eight performances of the musical each week at the Hilton's 400-seat Shimmer Cabaret. That number soon will be increased to 10, and eventually to 12.
Since Jeanie Linders' "Menopause the Musical" debuted March 28, 2001, in a 76-seat theater in Orlando, Fla., it has been performed in 40 cities and six countries.
There are 11 permanent companies, with more to come.
And the performances routinely sell out.
By creating a comedy about a condition common to most women (at some point in their lives), Linders has touched a vein that threads through the entire population.
This vein has turned into a mother lode for the creator and the producers, GFourProductions of Cooper City, Fla.
Alan Glist, the company's chairman, says he has been producing shows for 20 years and has never seen such a phenomenon.
Although the show focuses on aging women who are going through the change, it appeals to a much broader audience.
"There was a young lady at one of the performances laughing hysterically, and I asked her why," Glist said. "She said, 'Why, that's my mother up there.' "
And so there is no age limit as to who can enjoy this spoof on the aging process.
And no gender limitations, either.
Men suffer almost as much from menopause as do the women - while the women go through the physical discomfort, the men suffer the emotional discomfort of being dragged through the process right along with their mates.
The story's premise involves four women who meet at a lingerie sale. They come from diverse backgrounds, but have one thing in common - they are experiencing menopause.
The four characters include a "hippie type" Earth mother; a powerful businesswoman; an Iowa housewife living in the shadow of her husband's success; and an aging soap star on the verge of being replaced by a younger woman.
Although there are four characters onstage, the company has eight actresses to fill the roles at different times - plus two understudies.
This is an ensemble production without a lead star, although Broadway performer and Las Vegas resident Paige O'Hara (the voice of Belle in the Disney feature "Beauty and the Beast") may be the most well-known locally.
At a recent matinee performance, the cast included O'Hara (as aging soap star Vita Corimbi); Laura Lee O'Connell (as power woman Susan Baubian); Cheryl Spencer (hippie Satomi Hofmann) and Marsha Waterbury (Iowa housewife Skye Dee Miles).
While O'Hara has the dominant singing voice, all were excellent.
O'Connell has been singing and dancing on and off Broadway for 30 years.
Spencer has performed for the Metropolitan Opera in New York as well as on Broadway in "Sally" and in touring companies ("A Chorus Line").
Waterbury also is a Broadway actress, appearing in such productions as "Mamma Mia!" and "Footloose."
The musical includes 24 song parodies that exploit the symptoms of menopause to hilarious effects.
"Looking for Love in all the Wrong Places" becomes "Looking for Food in Too Many Places."
"Heard it Through the Grapevine" becomes "You'll Never Again See 39."
The song "Chains" becomes "Change, Change, Change."
The dilemma faced by women going through menopause is summed up in one line by "Power Woman" - "I'm a lot more pushy, when I'm not crying."
And the creators of this magnificent little production are crying - all the way to the bank.