What: Menopause the Musical

When: 7:30 p.m. Sept. 11

Where: Farmington Civic Center, 200 W. Arrington Ave.

Tickets: Start at $40. There are discounts for groups of 10 or more. Call 888-686-8587, ext. 3

More info: Call 505-599-1148 or visit www.fmtn.org/civiccenter

FARMINGTON — A little more than a decade ago when "Menopause the Musical" debuted nationwide, the crew had difficulties putting signs up in certain areas, said director Seth Greenleaf.

"It was almost a bad word," he said.

Greenleaf said there was a lot of shame and unexpressed dialogue about menopause. He thinks the musical has helped open up the subject by providing an opportunity to joke about it.

In September, Farmington will get the opportunity to laugh about menopause when the musical opens at the Civic Center.

First shown in March 2001 in a small converted beauty shop in Orlando, Fla., the musical has a cast of four women who sing familiar songs with different lyrics describing symptoms of menopause.

Greenleaf said the myth surrounding the creation of the musical is that Jeanie Linders, the playwright, was sipping wine, thinking about her menopause symptoms and she decided to write songs for the different symptoms.

"It had a very healing effect on women," Greenleaf said.

The humorous, light-hearted take on menopause helped create a sisterhood and opened the subject for discussion, Greenleaf said.

Since it started, the play has expanded its reach each year. This year, for the first time ever, the musical was shown in Spanish.

But showing the musical so often also presents one of the biggest challenges, said Greenleaf, who has been directing the play for about five years.

Sandra Benton, Patti Gardner, Roberta Wall and Megan Cavanagh are members of the cast of  Menopause the Musical,  a humorous, light-hearted take on
Sandra Benton, Patti Gardner, Roberta Wall and Megan Cavanagh are members of the cast of Menopause the Musical, a humorous, light-hearted take on menopause, due at the Farmington Civic Center on Sept. 11 and to Albuquerque on Sept. 12. (Courtesy photo)

"Sometimes if you do a show for a long time, it becomes second nature," he said.

This creates a problem, because he wants the experience to be as authentic as possible for the audience.

Greenleaf said the actors help him if he loses touch with that drive for authenticity.

Megan Cavanagh plays Earth Mother, one of the four women at the center of the play.

When she first joined the cast in 2004, Cavanagh was not yet in full-blown menopause.

"I am in full-blown menopause right now and I am becoming my character," Cavanagh said.

Earth Mother is a very warm, loving character who is vegan and obsessed with organic food. Cavanagh said Earth Mother is experiencing horrible insomnia and mood swings, turning her into someone she normally isn't.

The show has helped her deal with the changes.

"This show empowers women to realize they aren't alone," Cavanagh said.

And the audience tends to be predominantly women. But Greenleaf said men often find it funny and educational.

Cavanagh described one of the songs in the musical that is sung to the tune of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight." In "Menopause the Musical" it becomes "My Husband Sleeps Tonight."

The lyrics describe a husband sleeping in the guest room or on the sofa.

Cavanagh said men often show up for the performance reluctantly but leave laughing.

Greenleaf has observed the same thing and said the musical is very educational for men.

One of the most surprising reactions Greenleaf ever witnessed was when a man walked up to him after the musical and said, "If I'd seen this show five years ago, I would not have divorced my wife."

Greenleaf was also surprised by how many women have gone through menopause thinking they were on their own.

"All these women in the world are going through this," Greenleaf said. "Ten years ago, they weren't talking about it."

Greenleaf said today women are much more open about menopause and are willing to joke about it. He pointed to television commercials about menopause as proof. Greenleaf said today there are many more commercials about products that provide relief for the symptoms than there were just 10 years ago.

Greenleaf believes the show has helped speed that change by influencing attitudes toward menopause. And both Greenleaf and Cavanagh believe humor was instrumental in the show's positive reception.

"The amount of laughter in the show is really healing," Cavanagh said.

Hannah Grover covers news, arts and religion for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 and hgrover@daily-times.com. Follow her @hmgrover on Twitter.