Israeli theater is going through 'the change'

American choreographer and stage director Patty Bender brings the joys of 'Menopause' to Haifa.

menopause play 88 298 (photo credit: Courtesy)
menopause play 88 298
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Hailed as "a celebration of sisterhood", "Menopause the Musical" (or MTM), has reached Israel's shores. Inspired by the hormonally charged everyday occurrences of menopausal woman - the hot flashes, the night sweats, and the chocolate cravings - MTM is a musical montage of the highs, the lows, the laughter and the tears of middle-aged women everywhere...think Desperate Housewives 10 years on meets Broadway. The show is based on four women from different walks of life. They have clashing personalities, ambitions and priorities, but they share one thing in common - they are going through "the change". Starring Osnat Vishinski, Smadar Dishon-Brenner, Rutti Holtman and Tal Amir, these four characters meet and bond through a chance encounter while out shopping. They soon find out that they have more in common than just the same taste in underwear. The characters are classic female archetypes; one has a dominant maternal instinct, another an ambitious drive, the third has earth mother values, and the fourth is simply vain. Through comic and honest dialogue, the characters spark a fantastic chemistry, drawing upon their own strengths and weaknesses to convey a story most women can identify with. One of the secrets behind the script lies with the Jewish-American writer and producer, Jeanie Linders - or more accurately, with her friends. Linders deliberately wove direct quotes taken from the everyday dialogue of her friends into the script of MTM. In doing so she has achieved a remarkably tangible story which is both entertaining and convincing. Linders initially put the show together in March 2001 in a 76-seat perfume shop turned theater in Orlando, Florida. Co-director and choreographer Patty Bender has been with the show since its inception, and is now in Israel for the show's premiere here. "What makes this show so universally successful," Bender tells The Jerusalem Post, "is that women from all over the world are going through the same feelings and emotions, so they can identify with the characters of the show perfectly." Bender explains the charm of MTM. "As our audiences tend to be vastly female, the women really let their guard down among their peers. They can respond to the show more honestly without feeling self-conscious and can relate to the characters. When they laugh, they are really laughing at themselves and feeling empowered." Before meeting Linders, Bender choreographed the Spectro Magic Parade at Disney World. The show has come a long way since it premiered six years ago, and today it can be seen in theaters around the world, including London, South Africa, Australia and now Israel. Actress Smadar Dishon-Brenner, a native Israeli now living and working in Los Angeles, was the driving force behind bringing the show to Israel. After performing as one of the four leads in the American version of the show, Brenner decided she wanted to bring it home to Israel. "Smadar was convinced that Israeli audiences would love 'Menopause'," recalls Bender, "and she was not wrong". For Israeli audiences the script has been translated into Hebrew, and a few special changes have been made, such as including a few well known Hebrew songs. Bender speaks highly of her experiences working in Israel. "The people [in Israel] are so vibrant...the country is really beautiful and so varied, every time I turn a corner I find a new vista." MTM's opening night in Haifa was sold out, and the Israeli audience was interestingly enough, more or less evenly divided between the sexes. Bender, however, hopes the audiences would gradually become more female dominated. "The women generally throw themselves into the show more when not surrounded by men...only then do they really loose their inhibitions." Menopause the Musical is now in showing at Haifa's Municipal Theater. Tickets are on sale for NIS 100. Call (04) 8600 500 for more information.