Donna Huntley and Anise Ritchie
Past generations may have called our monthly period the “ladies’ time” or (cringe) “the curse.” The word “pregnant” could not be uttered on television or radio, so euphemisms like “expecting,” “with child,” and in “a family way” were used instead. Hardly surprising, since even TV’s married couples like Lucy and Ricky Ricardo slept in separate beds! And as for menopause, it simply wasn’t mentioned in polite company, much less on the air.
Donna Huntley, starring in the bawdy yet profound Menopause, the Musical®, says “Menopause was called the silent passage, because like other segments of womanhood, it just wasn’t discussed.” Speaking of the “change,” times change, too. Huntley is proud to be onstage in the longest-running scripted musical in Las Vegas history, a show about menopause which has been touring internationally for more than two decades.
We caught up with Miss Donna, an Ohio native who has also starred in stage productions of Lena Horne: the Lady and Her Music, Hairspray, and Chicago, in her hotel room in Bangor, Maine while on the road with the show’s touring company via Zoom. “Menopause is not just a shift of hormones. It’s so much more. This passage opens up an opportunity to finally do what you want and rediscover who you are, and where you are.”
Performing as one of the four female leads who portray lingerie shoppers who squabble over a black lace bra, Donna adds, “As women, historically we don’t take care of ourselves and our own needs. We’re easily consumed by being a daughter, sister, auntie, spouse and partner, mother, and often a breadwinner. And the years fly by. Menopause is a moment to pause and look around, and maybe decide to do something different.”
Co-star Anise Ritchie has been a member of the Menopause cast for 17 years, and she’s toured Europe singing opera, gospel, and jazz. “When you come to our show, you will laugh so hard, it will make you feel you’re not alone,” she says. Of the actual experience of menopause, she says, “It may be unpleasant at times with the hot flashes and mood swings, but we, as women get through it, which I feel makes us strong.”
Miss Anise adds, “We’re a sisterhood! It’s all part of life. It’s part of aging.” And since the show sets the action, including night sweats, weird food cravings and insomnia, to classic Top 40 radio hits from the 60s, 70s and 80s, audiences can’t help but sing along as the cast warns “We’re havin’a heat wave!.”
Other songs include remix updates of old favorites, including “My Husband Sleeps Tonight” (“Wimoweh”) inspired by the 1961 Tokens hit “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” “Lookin’ for Food” sung to the tune of “Lookin’ for Love (In All the Wrong Places)” from Urban Cowboy, “Stayin Awake/Night Sweatin’,” inspired by “Stayin’ Alive/Night Fever” from Saturday Night Fever, and “Change, Change, Change,” a re-purposed take on Aretha Franklin’s immortal “Chain of Fools,” along with hilarious twists on “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” “Sign ‘O the Times,” “New Attitude,” and “What’s Love Got to Do With It?”
Can’t get to Vegas, where the show plays indefinitely? Not on the current tour schedule? No matter. Just lift your voice in song with the show’s cast and worldwide audience, and enjoy knowing that you’re not the only one who sets the air-conditioner on “Frozen” year-round.