YA GOTTA GO 'Women need to see this show,' says producer Kathi Glist.
Here's a hot flash for you: dying is easy (in the theatrical sense of bombing onstage); producing a successful show is hard.
Kathi Glist should know. While the producer had an off-Broadway hit with Menopause the Musical (at Trinity Repertory Company June 5 through August 2), initially the comedic romp didn't sound like it had a chance. Her husband and producing partner thought it would be cringe-inducing for men in the audience, as was The Vagina Monologues when he saw it.
"Somehow, although they were probably dragged there, they were the first to leap to their feet at the end," Glist says. "I heard a man from Seattle say to his buddies, 'Boy, I get this now — this should be a mandatory workshop for all men!' "
Not that Glist didn't have her reservations. Even now, she frankly admits, the show doesn't always impress the critics, "because it's not perfectly written.
"What I saw was more than was on the stage," she says. "Because frankly, since it hadn't been produced before, they didn't have great production values. I knew we could take it to the next level, but I also knew that we needed to keep it simple. I didn't want it overly theatrical or too grand a production or to hire Broadway choreographers or directors. I didn't want to lose the simplicity of this piece or the message it has for its audience."
That message — to audiences that she says are usually about 90 percent women — is to not lose your pluck and determination in the face of adversity.
The show was created in Orlando nine years ago. Advertising and marketing specialist Jeanie Linders, joking around with friends, broke into impromptu song — "I'm Having a Hot Flash," to the tune of "(Tropical) Heatwave." Night sweats soon had her singing "Stayin' Awake" instead of the Bee Gees' "Stayin' Alive," and the challenge was on. Menopause the Musical has 25 such ditties, all to pop music of the 1960s and '70s. The show has four women shopping for lingerie at Bloomingdale's, strangers to one another, quickly bond through discussing their common physiological annoyance and all it implies.
"Women talk to women," Glist points out. "They go on a plane, and in a two-hour flight they know the life story of the woman sitting next to them. In a grocery line, I can talk to the woman behind me and in another moment she shares something with me."
So not only the subject matter but also the way the show unfolds was compelling. Compelling enough to pull women away from their lounge chairs and piña coladas.
"My husband said, 'You are crazy — nobody goes to the theater in the summer,' " she recalls. "I said, 'Women need to see this show.' And we sold out in the heat of the Florida summer, off-season, every single performance for six months, until the theater said, 'Sorry, we have another show coming in, you'll have to leave.' "
They lifted their sails and caught the winds of change. Glist points out that while nowadays talk about menopause pops up on Oprah, in casual conversation, and has been the subject of numerous books, that was not the case when they took a chance.