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'Menopause the Musical' at the Craterian

"Menopause the Musical" has helped women laugh at the life-disrupting effects of menopause symptoms for 15 years, and now the widely produced musical is aiding in the fight against breast cancer.

"Menopause the Musical: The Survivor Tour" features four performers whose lives have been touched by breast cancer.

The production is coming to Medford for a performance at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 21, at the Craterian Theater, 23 S. Central Ave. Tickets are $42, $45 or $48 and can be purchased at the box office, 16 S. Bartlett St., online at craterian.org or by calling 541-779-3000. For every ticket sold, $2 will be donated to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, which supports breast cancer research and treatment.

First produced in 2001 at a 76-seat theater that once housed a perfume shop, the iconic musical tells how four disparate women shopping for lingerie at Bloomingdale's find they are united by their shared experience of hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings and memory fog.

Women of all ages, but especially those going through menopause, have flocked to performances of the musical. Each show features 25 songs about chocolate cravings, hot flashes, memory problems, nocturnal sweats, body image and sexual predicaments. The lyrics parody popular tunes, with titles like "Stayin' Awake" and "Puff, My God I'm Draggin."

In video interviews with the performers done for "The Survivor Tour," actor Judy Blue says not only can the women in the audience know the actors have gone through night sweats, not sleeping and other menopause symptoms, but they've also battled breast cancer.

"What this show does is bring women together — pure and simple," says Blue, who plays Soap Star in the musical. The aging character must cope with the fact that her fading beauty affects her not only personally, but professionally.

Megan Cavanagh takes on the role of Earth Mother — a warm woman still clinging to '60s hippie culture who is caring for her elderly mom. Cavanagh is best known for her role as Marla Hooch in "A League of Their Own," a movie about a World War II-era women's professional baseball league that gains popularity as men become U.S. soldiers and go to war.

Cavanagh endured a partial mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation. She says she's had women come up to her after the show to relate their own breast cancer stories.

"We all had different experiences with our breast cancers, but we're all in the same sisterhood," she says.

Actor Teri Adams, who plays frumpy Iowa Housewife, has been performing and touring with "Menopause the Musical" since 2006. In the beginning, she hadn't yet gone through menopause herself and didn't have firsthand experience with symptoms.

But then Adams had a double mastectomy and treatment in 2008.

"The chemo sends you into early menopause," she says, noting there were times when she thought she would never be back on stage singing and dancing.

Actor and recording artist Linda Boston, who plays Professional Woman in the musical, has seen cancer touch her family members. Experiencing cancer through a caregiver's role, Boston helped her sister as she went through three years of chemotherapy and nine surgeries for bladder cancer. Boston's brother passed away from leukemia after a long, hard-fought battle.

Boston says watching "Menopause the Musical" is therapeutic for audience members.

In the musical, Professional Woman is a control freak who runs her own business. Her frustration mounts due to her inability to control the menopause symptoms that are wreaking havoc on her life.

Although the issues addressed by the musical are serious, "Menopause the Musical" is known for triggering peals of laughter among audience members. The song parodies are especially popular.

In "Stayin' Awake" — a take-off of the Bee Gees hit song "Stayin' Alive" that was featured in the movie "Saturday Night Fever" with John Travolta — Soap Star, Iowa Housewife, Professional Woman and Earth Woman show off their best disco moves while belting out lyrics:

"Well it's not alright, it's not OK, and you can look the other way. My husband tries to understand, it's just no concept for a man. Whether you're a sister or whether you're a mother, you're stayin' awake, stayin' awake. See the sunrise breakin' and you're up cooking bacon and you're stayin' awake, stayin' awake."

It's little surprise the musical has the feeling of friends sharing their deepest thoughts and feelings. Writer Jeanie Linders was drinking wine with her girlfriends when she experienced a hot flash and began singing "I'm having a hot flash" to the tune of the 1963 song "Heat Wave."

She kept writing menopause-themed lyrics to songs and "Menopause the Musical" was born. The musical has toured internationally and been used to raise awareness about ovarian cancer as well as breast cancer.

Cavanagh says many women are suffering in silence. The musical brings issues out in the open — letting them know they are not alone in their experiences.

"It's empowering to be able to talk about that, laugh about it and say, 'We're not crazy,' " she says.

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-776-4486 or valdous@mailtribune.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/VickieAldous.

Linda Boston, Megan Cavanagh, Judy Blue and Teri Adams appear in 'Menopause The Musical.' Photo by Thomas J. King