Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Talking to two cast members of MENOPAUSE THE MUSICAL, which plays the Orpheum Theatre March 3-5

by Gil Benbrook

You have to hand it to Jeanie Linders.  Her show Menopause, the Musical struck a chord when it first premiered in 2001 and has gone on to have countless productions across the globe ever. Linders’ simple lyrics adorn popular songs from the 1960s to the 1980s and the show is a fun, joyful experience.  And the overall message of the musical of empowerment and owning up to what life deals you is something both women and men can relate to. 

Linders’ premise for the show is very simple – four women meet when fighting over sale bras in the lingerie department of Bloomingdale’s, discover they have a lot in common, and bond over a day of shopping throughout the store.  Over the course of the 90 minute musical, the ladies talk and sing about the many changes they are experiencing once they’ve hit the menopausal years – from night sweats to weight gain, lack of sex drive to hot flashes. Linders’ idea to use popular songs with rewritten lyrics is a good one, since familiarity of the music turns them into toe tappers.  She turns "Chain of Fools" into "Change of Life," “Heat Wave” into “Hot Flash,” "Stayin' Alive" becomes "Stayin' Awake" and "Night Fever" is now "Night Sweatin'."  

With topics that anyone can identify with, whether you’ve been through menopause or not, like memory loss, restlessness and mood swings, Menopause, the Musical manages to be a show for just about everyone.  

The tour of the show comes to the Orpheum Theatre for five performances this weekend and two of the ladies in the cast sat down to answer some question about the show

Anise Ritchie (Professional Woman): 

How long have you been with Menopause The Musical
16 years+
What do you think makes Menopause The Musical one of the most successful touring off-Broadway shows in history?
Many women can relate to what all women have to go through in their life. It becomes a sisterhood. When women come to see our show, they come in as strangers, but after the show they leave as friends.  It’s truly exciting to see.  
What is your favorite number to perform in Menopause The Musical and why?  

There are many many moments. Here are two of my favorites…. “My Guy” (Temptations) to My Thighs -Menopause The Musical … “Heat Wave” (Peggy Lee) to Hot Flash-Menopause The Musical. Come out to see the show. There are so many…. all women can relate where they can pick their favorites. However, there is a song close to the end of the show I cannot tell you about… that will make the audience react with excitement!!!!!! Come see the show and find out!!!!!
What can audiences expect to take away from this show?  

A sense of “Empowerment “ for women …to embrace what is going on in their life creating a sisterhood which cannot be broken for all women who will all go through the CHANGE and come out on the other side Enlighten as a Sisterhood.  

Nancy Slusser (Iowa Housewife): 

How long have you been with Menopause The Musical?  

"I’ve been with the show for 21 years. I joined the Off-Broadway cast in April of 2002 as the Dance Captain and U/S of Soap Star, Iowa Housewife & Earth Mother.  I did take an 11-year break in 2008 when I got pregnant with my twins, returning to Menopause in 2019."
What do you think makes Menopause The Musical one of the most successful touring off-Broadway shows in history?

"Heart This show is filled with Love, empathy for ourselves and others and a joy at realizing we are all on this journey together. It’s such a clever, fun way of looking at real-life situations we all experience through a comic and touching lens. "
What is your favorite number to perform in Menopause The Musical and why?  

When I’m playing the Iowa Housewife- Only You. It is Iowa’s finale to her journey through the show with the help of her newfound friends. It’s a song with pure fun and Joy.  As Soap Star - it’s a tie. I’m Having A Hot Flash Reprise & Please Make Me Over. Soap realizes it is Ok to age & that she is still sexy and has a lot to offer.  As Earth Mother - Puff My God I’m Dragging!  Earth has fun realizing she can’t keep up with what the young ones are doing with exercise…but she’s Ok & is still on the game! She does it her way!!
What can audiences expect to take away from this show?  

"Audiences will laugh & perhaps even tear up at some of the hilarious & poignant moments we explore as we talk about ourselves, our lives, and our families. They will take away a Pride in the Sisterhood we all share and they will feel better about themselves and their lives. And hopes as they encounter their lives in the future - they can chuckle and relax about all of life’s inevitable challenges and changes. It is a privilege to age with grace and humor! "

"Broadway Curious Back for More" - The Bridge Initiative’s Events Explore Ties that Bind & Food on March 3 & May 20


Monthly talk show/concert Broadway Curious presented by The Bridge Initiative offers two more events this season: Friday, March 3rd and Saturday May 20th at 7:30pm at ASU Kerr, 6110 N Scottsdale Rd, Scottsdale, AZ 85253. The venue opens its doors at 7:00pm for bar service and meet-and-greet with the artists. 

Broadway Curious is hosted by Brenda Foley and Will Rogers with Musical Director Steve Hilderbrand. The series centers musical theatre as a catalyst for conversation, and invites different contributing artists every month to explore a unique topic through musical selections and conversation. The hosts guide the event and the audience is invited to participate. The series offers the community the opportunity to engage with and get to know local professional talent in a way that is not possible when they are onstage in full theatre productions.

The March 3rd event, The Ties That Bind, features Valley theatre favorites Damon J. Bolling and Maren Mascarelli along with powerhouse vocalist Cherish Forbes. Inspired by the disconnection of the pandemic era as well as political divisions, this event will delve into how we forge connections and what brings us together. 

The May 20th, Musical Eater, showcases standup comedian/former musical theatre ingenue Brandi Bigley, theatre performer Breona Conrad, and Argentinian zarzuela soprano Greta Skelly. To close out the season, this performance will be a celebration of food, folks, and fun.
After more than a decade based in New York, Foley's local work as producing artistic director for The Bridge Initiative is complemented by her _onstage credits including Arizona Theatre Company, iTheatre Collaborative, Tempe Center for the Arts, and Jewish Ensemble Theatre at Scottsdale Center for the Arts. Originally from Alabama, Rogers directed and produced theatre in Chicago for many years before relocating to Phoenix where he now works as creative producer and designer with The Bridge Initiative and Southwest Shakespeare Company. Musical Director Hildebrand is a long-time Valley pianist, singer, actor, and musical director who has performed with Phoenix Theatre Company, TheatreWorks, Stray Cat Theatre and serves as music leader at Unity of Phoenix Spiritual Center.

Broadway Curious is produced by The Bridge Initiative in collaboration with ASU Kerr and funded in part by a grant from Scottsdale Arts. Tickets are $25 general admission, $10 students at the box office (plus fees). More info and ticket links at bridgeinit.org/bc

Arizona Opera Announces its 2023/24 Season


The upcoming season’s line-up includes classic operas featuring star-crossed lovers, mistaken identities, and salacious escapades, a World Premiere based on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and exciting new initiatives in Phoenix and Tucson 

Today, Arizona Opera officially announced its 2023/24 Season, featuring four opera productions – including a World Premiere – in Phoenix and Tucson, as well as the company’s inaugural New Works Festival in Phoenixand a new series of community concerts in Tucson. Arizona Opera’s programming includes something for everyone, from tried-and-true opera lovers to school-aged children and everyone in between. 


“We are eager to continue connecting communities across Arizona through the power and beauty of opera, celebrating great operas from the classic repertoire while also investing in the future of the artform through new works,” said Joseph Specter, Arizona Opera’s President and General Director. “Our upcoming season brings iconic stories of passion, obsession, and stolen identities – timeland universal themes enjoyable for both seasoned patrons and newcomers alike. Walso look forward to launching new initiatives in both Phoenix and Tucson to increase our impact beyond the opera house.” 


Casting and other information about the 2023/24 Season and programs will be released next month.



Frankenstein (World Premiere) 
Gregg Kallor, Composer and Librettist 
Adapted from the novel by Mary Shelley 
Phoenix: October 13-15, 2023 – Herberger Theater Center 
Tucson: October 21-22, 2023 – The Temple of Music and Art 

Arizona Opera’s eagerly awaited third world premiere, based on Mary Shelley’s iconic novel of the same name, comes to the stage to open the 2023/24 Season in the McDougall RED Series. 


With a riveting, cinematic score and libretto by Gregg Karloff, the living, feeling Creature is brought to life only to be forsaken by its creator, Victor Frankenstein. Embracing Shelley’s original text, regarded by many as the first science fiction novel, Frankenstein gives poignant voice to the Creature’s struggle and lays bare the horror of alienation and “otherness” with exquisite nuance. At the core of this heartbreaking is tale lies a passionately wrought plea to look deeper within ourselves to find common ground and uphold our responsibility to one another.  Arizona Opera’s world premiere of Frankenstein follows the successes of Riders of the Purple Sage and The Copper Queen, the latter of which was released in fall 2021 as a feature-length film. 


The Barber of Seville, Roméo & Juliette, Don Giovanni 

Arizona Opera’s 2023/24 Season will feature three Main Stage Series productions presented in winter/spring at Symphony Hall in Phoenix and The Linda Ronstadt Music Hall in Tucson.


The Main Stage Series is comprised of powerhouse opera classics, including Gioachino Rossini’s comic masterpiece, The Barber of Seville; Charles Gounod’s Roméo & Juliette featuring the famed star-crossed loversand Mozart’s dark comedy, Don Giovanni 


The Barber of Seville 
Composer: Gioachino Rossini | Libretto by Cesare Sterbini 
Phoenix: January 27-28, 2024 – Symphony Hall 
Tucson: February 3-4, 2024 – The Linda Ronstadt Music Hall 


Love, mistaken identity, and humor are woven throughout The Barber of Seville, Rossini’s beloved masterpiece. The Barber of Seville is considered one of the greatest comic operas of all time, maintaining its popularity for over two hundred years for good reason. 


Count Almaviva falls hopelessly in love with the beautiful Rosina, the young ward of a grumpy and elderly Bartolo who intends to marry her and claim her dowry. Dressed in disguise, Almaviva tries to earn Rosina’s affection for who he truly is as a person, rather than for his money and status. Almaviva assumes multiple identitiesincluding a poor student, a drunken soldier, and a singing tutor and priest. With the help of his companion Figaro, Almaviva stops at nothing as he pursues Rosina through a series of comical hijinks and bait-and-switch facades. Eventually revealing his true identity, Almaviva manages to win Rosina’s heart and the pair evade the disgruntled Bartolo, with love and laughter triumphing in the end. 


Roméo & Juliette 
Composer: Charles Gounod | Libretto by Jules Barbier & Michel Carré 
Phoenix: March 2-3, 2024 – Symphony Hall 
Tucson: March 9-10, 2024 – The Linda Ronstadt Music Hall 


Gounod's romantic and rapturous music sets the stage for this tale of star-crossed lovers, based on Shakespeare’s timeless play about the power of love, set amidst the feuding of the Montague and Capulet families in Verona.  


Roméo Montague and his friend Mercutio don masks to sneak into the Capulet’s ball, where Juliette Capulet has been presented to the party guests. Roméo falls instantly in love with Juliette, who fervently loves him back despite being pledged to marry Count Parîs. Juliette’s cousin Tybalt recognizes Roméo as he shares a tender moment with Juliette, but he is prevented from attacking as Roméo and his friends flee.  


Roméo and Juliette affirm their forever love in the iconic balcony scene. Outside the Capulet palace, Roméo breaks up a fight between Mercutio and Tybalt, asking him to forgive the feud between families. With nothing but scorn, Tybalt kills Mercutio and Roméo stabs Tybalt. Knowing that the feud between their families will never resolveRoméo and Juliette plan to fake their deaths in a desperate attempt to be together, culminating in an ending for these lovers that is as tragic as it is heartbreakingly beautiful. 

Don Giovanni 
Composer: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart | Libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte 
Phoenix: April 20-21, 2024 – Symphony Hall 
Tucson: April 27-28, 2024 – The Linda Ronstadt Music Hall 


Mozart’s Don Giovanni, regarded by many as one of the greatest operas of all time, tells the centuries-old story of the libertine Don Juan.

Don Giovanni tries to seduce Donna Anna, which goes awry, and he ends up killing her father, the Commendatore, unbeknownst to her. Donna Anna asks her fiancé, Don Ottavio, to avenge her father’s death. The opera continues to follow Don Giovanni’s salacious escapades, aided and abetted by his servant Leporello. Giovanni makes his rounds seducing and duping numerous characters, bragging along the way and escaping accountability by obscuring his identity. In a cemetery, Giovanni ultimately meets the Commendatore’s statue, which comes to life and forebodingly warns Giovanni that he will laugh no longer. When offered the chance to change his ways, will Don Giovanni repent? 



Leaning into Arizona Opera’s passion for bringing new, exciting, and socially relevant operas to our patrons, the 2023/24 Season will mark the debut of the company’s New Works Festival, taking place from November 3-5, 2023, at the Arizona Opera Center in Phoenix.


This wonderful and immersive experience will highlight three contemporary operas over the course three daysAttendees of the New Works Festival will have an opportunity to preview these poignant worksin a fun and festive atmosphere featuring food trucksbeverages, and engaging activities to round out the weekend. Selections for Arizona Opera’s inaugural New Works Festival will be announced next month.



Since the inception of its long-standing partnership with the Tucson Desert Song Festival (TDSF), Arizona Opera has collaborated with the Festival to bring some of today’s greatest artists to perform in Arizona Opera’s birth city. In addition to the TDSF’s annual sponsorship of an Arizona Opera production in The Linda Ronstadt Music Hallthis partnership has brought nearly two dozen recitals over the years, of illustrious artists like Susan Graham, Matthew Polenzani, Lisette Oropesa, and this spring’s superstar guest artist, soprano Angel BlueThe 2023/24 Season continues this rich tradition with memorable and notable guest artists sharing their gifts with our Tucson audiences, with the 2024 recitalist to be announced later this spring.


In addition to this annual recital series in partnership with TDSF, Arizona Opera is proud to announce new series of outdoor Tucson Parks Concerts designed to reach Tucsonans where they are, in their communities. These outdoor performances will bring the arts to those who may not otherwise be able to access them within a traditional theatre setting. The full line up of dates, locations, and artists will be revealed later this year 



Arizona Opera, entered its 50th Season in fall of 2021, produces fully-staged operas, concerts, and collaborative programs throughout the state of Arizona each season, and is among only a handful of companies in the U.S. that regularly performs in more than one city. Arizona Opera elevates the transformative power of storytelling through music, cultivating community and strengthening a state and people as adventurous and diverse as the place they call home. Since its inaugural year in 1971, Arizona Opera has produced more than 200 staged operas and concerts. The company's artistic history is rich with a blend of operas traditional repertoire featuring baroque, bel canto, and verismo works, turn-of-the-century masterpieces, operettas, and American operas.



The Tucson Desert Song Festival provides a world-class experience for music enthusiasts and novices alike. The mission is to elevate Tucson to a world-class destination for music lovers. The event is a unique three- weekend blend of glorious singing in orchestral, chamber, choral, and solo formats along with related lectures and master classes in the warmth and charm of Arizona’s renowned Sonoran Desert resort region.  



Frankenstein is part of the McDougall Arizona Opera RED Series. The new commission of Frankenstein is funded, in part, by a gift from Linda and Stuart* Nelson. The production of Frankenstein is made possible by Ron and Kay McDougall, Herk and Jill* Rosenzweig, Susan EscoChandler and Alfred D. Chandler, and Michael and Beth Kasser


Arizona Opera’s New Works Festival is part of the McDougall Arizona Opera RED Series. The New Works Festival is made possible, in part, through generous support from Ron and Kay McDougall, and Michael and Beth Kasser. 

The Barber of Seville, Roméo & Juliette, and Don Giovanni, are part of the Arizona Opera Main Stage SeriesThe Barber of Seville is also a part of the Marlu Allan and Scott Stallard Family Opera Series. 

CLICK HERE for more information, and to purchase tickets, when available  

Monday, February 27, 2023

Review Highlights: DISNEY'S FROZEN - National Tour: ASU Gammage

Caroline Bowman
Photo by Matthew Murphy / Disney

highlights from local critics reviews - (click link at bottom of each review to read complete review)

Click here for more information on this production that runs through March 5

"Disney has found much success with turning their hit animated films into popular Broadway musicals. However, finding the right balance in expanding an 80-minute movie with added songs and scenes into a two-plus hour live stage show that still delivers everything lovers of the film expect can be hard. For their latest offering, based on the 2013 movie, Frozen succeeds not only in delivering on the film's themes and messages of female empowerment and sisterly bonds, but also in recreating the magical elements of the film with spectacular video projections, lighting, and special effects that will most likely induce thrills even from jaded theatregoers. The national tour is now at ASU Gammage for a two-week run." - Gil Benbrook, TalkinBroadway.com (click here to read the complete review)