Move over “Menopause the Musical.” There’s a new “mediocre” production in town. Chicago Sun Times theater critic Heidi Weiss writes:

“Hats!,” the musical revue now at the Royal George Theatre, has been designed for women with membership (official or not) in the 50-plus age group, and it is part of a larger, discouraging trend that might be labeled “demographically inspired theater.”

Here’s how it works: A solid statistical niche is identified — generally pinpointing women, simply because they tend to be the most devoted theatergoers. Then a show is constructed to suit what some deem to be this audience’s most generic concerns. Newly post-menopausal women and their still active but aging mothers are a notable hot-flash matter, with “Hats!’ joining such mediocre fare as “Menopause, the Musical.” (No wonder pharmaceutical firms run such huge ads in Playbill these days.)

Pushing every familiar button, these estrogen-enhanced shows offer equal doses of solidarity, humor, compassion and inspirational uplift — like tent meetings for the expanding AARP set.

“Hats” stars Grammy-award winning former pop star Melissa Manchester.

Christine

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  • Christine May 6, 2007 at 12:44 pm

    Hi Dee, I think the point is that there is no one representation of older women. What we find all too often throughout the media, however, is that older women are either invisible or are easily dismissed.
    Representations of menopause tend to reduce women to their menopause and focus on the limitations of their age and the way in which age begins to define their lives. We are advocating for more positive representations that reflect women who lead actives lives, whose careers aren’t over and who engage in politics and in society.

    Reply
  • Dee Adams May 6, 2007 at 11:27 am

    What would your representations of older women be?
    Dee Adams
    Rebel with the Pause
    http:www.minniepauz.com

    Reply
  • Christine May 3, 2007 at 3:16 pm

    First off — thanks for commenting. I appreciate your defense of the production and thanks for including the links to other reviews. Weiss, as you point out, has good stuff to say later on — especially concerning the “highly polished” and “excellent” performances.
    What drew us to Weiss’ piece, however, was not her criticism of the production itself but the cultural context in which she places the production. Patricia Allen’s take on “Menopause the Musical” reflects a similar perspective. Ultimately, they are saying that these productions, while possibly very entertaining on one level, rely on damaging stereotypes of older women — even while they are representing a positive sense of community and support among those women.
    In our comments on the two musicals, we are trying to raise awareness of how women are being represented in their narratives. Our hope is to spur more representations of older women that reveal their full complexity — and potential.

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  • Alper May 3, 2007 at 1:51 pm

    Christine:
    As a member of the production team, I can’t really comment. But I was saddened to see you speak so negatively on a show which you had not experienced.
    While I was disappointed with Hedy Weiss’ review (which nonetheless did have more positive things to say than you reproduced), I respect her writing and opinions. I do think you should take a look at the far more enthusiastic reviews in the Chicago Tribune and Variety .
    The producers have never made any bones about the fact that this show is designed to appeal to a particular segment, but the creative team (especially our director/choreographer and co-writer, Lynne Taylor Corbitt) have worked assiduously to assure that the piece maintains a high level of integrity and quality — fully entertaining, yes, but free of pandering.
    Sincere best wishes and congratulations on your fabulous site,
    Steven M. Alper
    (Supervising Music Director of HATS!)

    Reply
  • Christine May 3, 2007 at 11:24 am

    No — but if you have, please tell us what you thought!

    Reply
  • Alper May 3, 2007 at 10:42 am

    Seen it, Christine?

    Reply