Inspired by "a bottle of wine and a hot flash," Jeanie Linders created "Menopause The Musical," which premiered in March 2001.
The show, filled with song parodies from the 1960s, '70s and '80s, tells the story of four women who meet in a department store at a lingerie sale. The four-person, all-female cast bonds over their shared experiences surviving the "change of life." These women realize they are not alone and that they can all endure and even laugh about hot flashes, chocolate cravings, night sweats, forgetfulness and mood swings.
Linders says that "Menopause The Musical" was born out of a moment standing in front of her freezer singing the words "Hot Flash" to Rod Stewart's "Hot Legs." She was dressed for a formal evening, ready to walk out the door, and the sweating started.
"I have a picture of it... the flapping freezer door, a ball gown and me."
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In the summer of 1998 Linders went to San Francisco and, after seeing the long-running parody show "Beach Blanket Babylon," figured she could create something similar.
Songs like "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," "Stayin' Alive" and "I Got You Babe" are rewritten with change-of-life lyrics. "I Got You Babe" has been reconfigured as "I'm No Babe, Ma!" and was Linders' favorite song to parody.
"Nothing is more complex than the mother/daughter experience, especially when you are 55 and she is 85!" Linders says.
"I wanted to write a song that more or less said let me grow up, Ma; I can do this - you raised a good woman. But no matter how I tried, the song always ended up at the same place: 'I'm still your babe.'"
The show has played in more than 250 U.S. cities as well as in Australia, Canada, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea and the United Kingdom. Production staff estimate that nearly 11 million women in 14 countries have attended a performance since the show's opening in Orlando, Fla., in 2001.
Linders says the musical's wide-ranging appeal is because it is a show about women, not theater. There are more than 38 million baby boomer women in America, she says. "We understand the embarrassment of gotta go, gotta go, and laugh at ourselves. We understand the feeling of wanting to shake the doctor by the lapels and scream, 'You have to help me! I can't sleep anymore!'"
Women need to know that they're not alone in dealing with memory loss and wrinkles and everything else that comes with aging, Linders says, and they love being able to commiserate with the women in the audience.
In 2005, Linders created the Jeanie C. Linders Fund, which is supported by "Menopause The Musical." The foundation supports women in business development, arts and culture, personal growth, health issues and education.
"Recently, we finished our second 50-city 'Menopause The Musical Out Loud Tour,'" says Fund President Kim Whitehurst, "to increase awareness of the medical, social and emotional issues faced by the millions of women battling ovarian cancer."
"'Menopause The Musical' started out as an experience," Linders says. "Our audiences throughout the country, and now the world, are making it into a women's movement."