It all started with a group of friends, a bottle of wine and some tunes from the 1960s and ’70s.
Writer Jeanie Linders was hanging out with some friends when they began to rework the lyrics to those songs to fit their shared experiences with menopause.
Realizing that her friends and she had stumbled upon something with potential, Linders set to work writing a show that encapsulated what it’s like to experience menopause through music and humor.
Thus, “Menopause the Musical” was born. The musical premiered in Orlando in 2001 and has toured around the world since then. It also has a residency at Harrah’s in Las Vegas.
For a majority of that time, nearly 14 years, Spokane native Cherie Price has played the role of Soap Star, an actor who is worried that she is going to be replaced by a younger performer.
Price returns to her old stomping grounds when “Menopause the Musical” headlines the Bing Crosby Theater on Tuesday and Wednesday.
In Spokane, Price will be joined by Teri Adams as the naive Iowa Housewife; Roberta B. Wall as Earth Mother, who is all about peace and love; and Donna J. Huntley as Professional Woman, who is frustrated by her memory loss and hot flashes during business meetings.
“They’re archetypes” Price said. “All these women (in the audience) recognize a piece of themselves in these women.”
After meeting while shopping for underwear at Bloomingdale’s and sharing their experiences with menopause, the four women learn they have much more in common than they originally thought.
The show features reworked songs like “Puff, My God, I’m Draggin,’ ” a play on “Puff the Magic Dragon,” and “Hot Flash,” a new spin on Irving Berlin’s “Heat Wave.” “It sounds ridiculous, but it’s so hysterical,” Price said.
Price, who attended Holy Names High School, had no interest in performing while growing up in Spokane. She played piano, but her focus at the time was on skiing, which inspired her to move to Denver to attend Regis College.
Price took a drama class to fulfill an English credit, and, to her surprise, was cast in a lead role in a play. “Being onstage, having people looking at you and listening to every word that you say … I was hooked,” she said.
Price eventually transferred to another Denver college and double majored in music and theater. After graduating, she performed in shows in the city before moving back to Spokane, then to Portland, where she lived for more than 35 years.
While in Portland, Price worked with Coeur d’Alene Summer Theater. Price, who now lives in Florida, was still living in Portland when she was introduced to “Menopause the Musical.”
After reading the show’s audition notice, Price decided that it wasn’t her cup of tea and didn’t attend the audition. But after a friend who was cast in the show had to cancel, someone involved with the show suggested Price.
The producers had already left town to get a production of “Menopause” up and running in St. Louis, so they flew out Price to audition. She landed the role and has been with the show ever since.
Though some actors play a different character depending on the run, Price has only ever played Soap Star.
“She’s probably the one that’s the least likeable, at least in the beginning, because she’s totally full of herself, and she is really concerned about losing her job because of her age,” Price said. “She’s kind of, as the director says, a hot mess because she is so worried about her future, and she’s worried about her looks, and she’s thinking about plastic surgery, and she’s worried about her boyfriend. She’s a hot mess, but she learns, like all of the characters do.”
The chance to play a role like Soap Star keeps Price coming back to “Menopause the Musical,” but so, too, does the reactions she receives from the women and men who see the show.
Women see that they’re not alone in their experience, and men begin to understand what the women in their lives are going through.
“Menopause is something that women, especially in the past, they just didn’t talk about,” Price said. “Everybody suffered in silence. Now, we open up the subject. We’ve been opening up the subject for 17 years now, and women are free to go ‘What a relief! There’s all these other people feeling the same thing as me, and I can laugh about it. It’s OK to laugh about it. So I’m having a hot flash, so what?’ ”
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