‘Menopause the Musical” is aimed at the specific audience implied in its title, but according to Patti Gardner, anyone and everyone will find it entertaining.
“I’ve seen men really enjoy it, and I have three daughters in their twenties and while they can’t really relate, they really are entertained by it,” said Gardner, who plays Soap Star, one of the four female characters making up the cast of Jeanie Linders’ off-Broadway smash that will play at Proctors Wednesday and Thursday.
“I would say that our target audience are women between 40 and 70, and they’re the ones that are grabbing their friends and coming back again and again. But it’s a great piece of entertainment for anyone.”
Gardner is part of the national touring production put together by Linders and her producers, who first opened the show in Orlando, Fla., in 2001. Since its premiere, “Menopause the Musical” has been performed in 250 U.S. cities and 14 countries, and has been seen by an estimated 11 million women. Gardner wasn’t part of the original Florida cast, but she joined a production in Orlando in 2003 and has become good friends with the playwright.
‘Menopause the Musical’
WHERE: Proctors, 432 State St., Schenectady
WHEN: 8 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday
HOW MUCH: $45-$20
MORE INFO: 346-6204 or www.proctors.org
“Jeanie will tell you she wrote the play in between a hot flash and a bottle of wine,” said Gardner, a long Island native who moved to Florida about 30 years ago. “There’s a little bit of her in each character. This is the only play, I think, she’s ever written, and she used her public relations and marketing background. She came up with this great idea for a show, and it took the country and the universe by storm.”
While “Menopause the Musical” is her only play, Linders has worked in the arts field for more than 30 years. She has marketed and managed many theatrical events, she was president and CEO of her own advertising agency specializing in entertainment, and she has also worked as an arts consultant in Florida, North Carolina, Arkansas and California. The success of her play also helped Linders launch the Jeanie C. Linders Fund, which has offered financial support to various women’s causes, including the fight against ovarian cancer.
“It’s pretty amazing what Jeanie has done,” said Gardner. “She’s taken this event in women’s lives, and helped make it entertaining and educational while also raising money for women’s causes. She is remarkable.”
A lot in common
Along with Gardner’s Soap Star, the other characters are Iowa Housewife, Earth Mother and Professional Woman. The four women all meet at a department store and while initially it seems they have nothing in common, they soon learn better.
“It’s a powerful moment in a woman’s life, both emotionally and physically, and to be able to laugh about it and be entertained by it is very empowering,” said Gardner. “I love all four of the characters. They’re all likable and that’s one of the reasons why the show works so well. But I really like Soap Star. She starts out pretty impatient and is somewhat of a moody, even nasty person. But the journey she goes on during the show is wonderful. By the end of the show she learns to laugh at herself and her foibles.”
While she almost always plays Soap Star, Gardner has also performed as Iowa Housewife in various productions.
“The part I was originally hired for seven years ago was Soap Star, but I did enjoy doing Iowa Housewife, even though I don’t feel quite as connected to her,” said Gardner. “This character [Soap Star] is having a hard time dealing with all the emotional and physical changes going on. She’s aging, and that is pretty hard to deal with.”
There is no original music in the 90-minute performance; only parodies from the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s.
“There’s great music that people will recognize, and while the dancing isn’t difficult, there is an enormous amount of it,” said Gardner. “There’s four of us up there, four middle-aged women, or at least close to it, and it’s a bit of a marathon. There’s also 26 songs that have to be sung. It’s quite a workout for us.”
Gardner is well-suited for the dancing, having attended the University of Arizona as a dance major. She always wanted to perform but after college put here career on hold for quite a while.
“I always thought dancing would be my career, either as a performer or a teacher,” said Gardner. “But I ended up doing neither, at least for a while. I got married after college, had a family and sort of forgot about my career plans.”
Back in business
Then, when her children were a bit older, Gardner got back into show business.
“I was taking dance classes, really just for the exercise, and one of my teachers was a choreographer for a musical in Miami, and she said they needed dancers,” remembered Gardner. “That was about 20 years ago. That’s how I got back into it.”
Before she signed up for this particular tour of “Menopause the Musical,” Gardner was performing in “The New Century,” a comedy by Paul Rudnick being produced in Coral Gables, Fla.
“It’s very edgy, a great play, and probably a bit more for men than ‘Menopause,’ ” said Gardner. “But I’ve also seen men at this play coming with their wives or girlfriends. You just know they’re thinking, ‘What am I doing here?’ But they end up loving it. Everybody does.”
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Categories: Life and Arts