When actress Nicole Lee was an understudy in "Menopause the Musical," she was a few years shy of entering "the change." But at age 45, she says she now can relate to the hot flashes, mood swings, night sweats and other inconveniences that come along with menopause. "How ridiculous is it that you can't sleep because you're so hot you start ripping off your clothes?" said Lee, who plays the character known as Professional Woman. "It's like you have no control over your body and there's nothing you can do about it. I'm always asking, 'where is my fan?' We all have to have our fans backstage." "Menopause the Musical," which comes to the Straz Center Wednesday, follows Lee and her castmates, Margot Moreland as Earth Mother, Kimberly Vanbiesbrouck as Soap Star, and Monica Heuser as Iowa Housewife, as they share their menopausal symptoms through humor and song.
The women frame their travails using new lyrics to classic baby-boomer hits, such as "Stayin' Alive" is retooled to "Stayin Awake," "My Guy," becomes "My Thighs," and "Puff the Magic Dragon" morphs into "Puff, my God, I'm Draggin." "The writer was really able to find the funny in the change," said Lee, who was born and raised in Stuart, Fla. "(The characters) embrace the crazy and ride it out. We're all very different, but you can see yourself in each of them, and you realize we're all suffering and celebrating the same things as we bond and develop a sisterhood that's very empowering." Lee said she loves her role as Professional Woman. "She's very strong on the outside," Lee added. "But the interesting thing is she has weaknesses, like everyone else. It's just a facade of being strong. You end up seeing the cracks and that's make her so much more interesting." Although their audiences are usually heavily female, Lee said the men have a wonderful time because they identify with the humor. "What man doesn't have a wife, sister or friend that has dealt with this," she asked. "Men howl during the show." Lee, who teaches music full-time to kindergarten through fifth-graders, first performed in "Menopause the Musical" in 2001. Since that time, she has travelled to six states with this production. Her stage credits also include Motormouth Maybelle in "Hairspray," Mama Morton in "Chicago" and Tituba in "The Crucible." She now is pursuing a full-time theater career. "When I first joined ("Menopause") it was a weekend gig for me," she added. "Who knew from that weekend it would become an adventure and such a monster hit. It's a really great time."
MENOPAUSE THE MUSICAL
When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday; 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Thursday; 7:30 p.m. Friday; 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.
Where: The Straz Center, 1010 N. MacInnes Place, Tampa Tickets: $48.50, $53.50 and $68.50; (813) 229-7827 and www.strazcenter.org