“All Ways a Woman” is the newly updated and renamed version of Cabaret Oldtown’s popular “Menopaus-A-Palooza” from six or seven years ago that celebrates the ages and stages of a woman’s life, from puberty to menopause.
The show now includes references to digital technologies, ubiquitous social media and even “Fifty Shades of Grey.” But the updates are sort of unnecessary because the universal truths from the original about the physical and emotional matters that bond all women into a knowing sisterhood are still just that – universal truths.
And as portrayed by Christi Moore, Angela Geer, Barb Schoenhofer and Mary Lou Phipps-Winfrey – who co-wrote the original and this upgrade – these universal truths are simultaneously hilarious and heartfelt.
They take the lemons of PMS, hot flashes, mood swings, etc., and mash, mangle and puree them into the heady lemonade of such song parodies as “It’s My Body and I’ll Cry If I Want To” (“It’s My Party”), “Will I Wet My Pants for the Rest of My Life?” (“Can I Have This Dance”) and the flat-out show-stopper, “Here Comes Menopause” (“Here Comes Santa Claus”).
Moore, who also directs, plays Everymom coping with a teen daughter. Schoenhofer plays the resident cougar who is dating a younger man. Geer plays a driven real estate agent who put career ahead of relationships, and Phipps-Winfrey plays a wise, feisty grandmother who has seen and heard it all before. The four are strangers who meet in the reception room of their gynecologist and gradually open up to one another when their appointments are delayed.
Besides the song parodies and an occasional feminist anthem like “I Am Woman,” there are a lot of smart, guffaw-provoking zingers: “A male gynecologist is like a mechanic who never owned a car.” “I’ve been coming to this office so long I have frequent stirrup miles.” “I’m not tense; I’m terribly, terribly alert.”
If anything, the intervening years since the original have allowed the writers/performers to hone their pointed comic messages a little more sharply. I don’t remember laughing so loud or so long at the original version.
The show is almost nonstop laughs, although it leads to a serious and thrilling moment as Geer takes the well-deserved spotlight to belt out “I Am Changing” from “Dreamgirls.” That provides a key moment of gravitas that reveals the sometimes painful truths behind all the empowering humor.
The show is obviously by, about and for women. Indeed, the emcee opens the evening with, “Welcome ladies and ladies and ladies and ladies and gentlemen – both of you.” And cast members interact with women in the audience, from sly, nudge-nudge-wink-wink asides to leading a devil-may-care conga line to “Hot, Hot, Hot.”
But guys shouldn’t be scared off. The usual pattern, say the writers/performers, is that women will come with their girlfriends the first time, then bring their husbands or boyfriends to a subsequent show.
Note to guys: Once you realize that it’s not designed as a male-bashing diatribe (well, not really) and once you adjust to the casual description of female parts by their owners (hey, this doctor’s office is their locker room), then you can sit back and laugh at this privileged, surprising and entertaining look into the hearts and minds of the ladies in your life.
And laugh, you most certainly will.