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November 6 - 12, 2009
The Independent Weekly
Inspired by a hot flush
Donna Lee used to take a deep
breath before telling people,
in hushed tones, that she was
starring in Menopause the Musical.
After performing the role of "the
Dubbo housewife" on and off for
five years, however, she's no longer
abashed and the response is less
likely to be raised eyebrows.
"It's a subject that was very taboo,
but the show has definitely broken
down any barriers that were there,"
Lee says. "It's something that's
a fact of life and all women end
up going through it -- it's not that
pleasant, so if you can laugh about
it, that's a good thing."
Lee originally signed on with
Menopause for a 10-week contract
but, rather like "the Change", there
was no escape. She was here for
the original 2007 Adelaide season,
which sold 73,000 tickets and ran
for 20 weeks, making it the longest-
running show in the Adelaide
Festival Centre's history.
Adelaide also broke the world
record for advance ticket sales for
the show, beating cities such as New
York and Los Angeles.
This month's season will be much
shorter (just two shows) but no
less sweet for Lee, who says the SA
audience is fabulous: "They helped
us break records!"
Created by Florida woman Jeanie
Linders and inspired by "a hot flush
and a bottle of wine", Menopause
the Musical features four women -- a
housewife (Lee), a businesswoman,
an earth mother and a former TV
star -- who meet while shopping in
Myer and discover they are all going
"The characters have no names,
just personalities ... that helps
everyone in the audience to relate to
it. I can relate to all four of them,"
says Lee, whose own character is a
woman whose children have grown
up and no longer need her, leaving
her to adjust to life alone at home
with her husband.
The show also stars actresses
Carolyn Waddell, Maria Mercedes
and Cindy Pritchard, and includes
more than 20 hit songs from the
1960s, '70s and '80s, such as The Great
Pretender and Stand By Your Man.
The lyrics have been changed to
reflect the theme of the show so that
the original words to My Guy, for
example, have been replaced with:
"There's nothing I can do because it
sticks like glue to my thighs."
Lee says the show strikes a
chord with women of all ages, with
mothers often taking along their
daughters or vice versa.
"It's kind of like a sisterhood
happens with the show. We're all
going to go through it.
"Most of the audience are women
but there's always a smattering of
men who you can tell have been
dragged along. At the start you can
see that they are suffering, but soon
they're laughing along, too."
Despite her long-running contract
with Menopause, Lee did opt for a
change of pace when she signed on
for the stage version of High School
Musical. Unfortunately, a national
tour of the show was canned
because of poor ticket sales.
"Instead of going for a year it
went for five weeks, but that's show
business," Lee says philosophically.
She should know -- Lee's mother
was Australian entertainer Gloria
Dawn and her father was juggler
Frank Cleary. "For the first 14 years
of my life, we all lived in a caravan,"
she says of her childhood spent
with the Tent Circus and later the
Travelling Variety Tent Theatre.
Lee has performed in musicals
ranging from Oklahoma and
Showboat to Les Miserable, and has
appeared in iconic television shows
such as A Country Practice, The
Young Doctors, Neighbours and The
Don Lane Show.
She acknowledges with a laugh
that her resume makes it sound like
she's been treading the boards for
years. She isn't keen to divulge her
age, but cheekily quips: "You don't
have to be menopausal to be in the
show, but it helps!"
Menopause the Musical will
return to Her Majesty's Theatre on
The cast of Menopause the Musical, including Donna Lee (second from front).
Before you old rockers get too
excited, this has nothing to do
with former Clash frontman Joe
Instead, the novel by Australian
author, medical practitioner and
sometime comedian Russ Harris
is set in the UK and features (you
guessed it) a doctor and wannabe
comedian and his less-than-
successful attempts at romance.
Interestingly, it reads like a
British comedy, full of high farce
and elbow-in-the-ribs innuendo.
When Dr Max Strummer finds
his long-term partner cheating on
him, he descends into a world of
misery -- until reawakened
by his new love interest,
sexual dynamo Orlanda.
But Max's jealousy gets
the better of him, and this
new relationship looks set
While not breaking new
ground, Harris's book
continues the Nick Earls,
Kathy Lette genre of
wink, wink, nudge, nudge
humour. The book clips along at a
steady pace as Max falls from one
disaster to the next. And there
are some nice poignant moments
involving Max's buddy Liam.
Stand Up Strummer is a
(obviously doctors aren't
as squeamish as we
mortals when it comes to
discussing bodily func-
tions). There are Viagra
jokes aplenty, and in case
you haven't got it by now,
"stand up" refers to more
than just Strummer's
comic talents. Boom,
boom. -- Peter C. Pugsley
Exisle Publishing, RRP $24.99
Len Gardiner, a poet as a young
man, was brought to poetry
again during his wife Carina's
terminal illness. Here he offers
two of her favourites he penned
during that time.
Reader unpublished poems to 30
lines can be emailed with postal
address, to poetscorner@inde-
pendentweekly.com.au or posted
with an SAE to the Poetry Editor,
Independent Weekly, GPO Box 114
Adelaide 5001. A poetry book will
be forwarded to each contributor.
Compiled by John Miles
SHAFT THEREBY LEPER
ESPIED PALERMO BEAR
BIRD AIRSHIP NESTLE
AHEAD MARTINI AGAIN
Solutions from 10
Beauty in Death
Autumn declares a carpet
of leaves of many hues
that adorn the landscape
and herald renewal.
Gentle breezes waft
In chorus warbling birds
perform the seasonal dirge:
a fitting finale
to natural order.
Glowing sphere of gold
suspended and free
in joyous expectancy
descends to kiss the sea.
On recurring canvas
in mellowing light
the earth's mantle manifests
iridescence of sheer delight.
The sinking solar embrace
suffused with radiant colour
retires without trace
in stunning glory.
Wink wink, nudge nudge
Stamd Up Strummer Russ Harris
JAM USA/0582/02_CRICOS PROVIDER NO 00121B
The Hawke Centre at UniSA
presents the Kerry Packer
Civic Gallery, open weekdays.
Tutti Visual Arts 2009
2 November -- 18 November
Visit the Kerry Packer Civic Gallery
Level 3, Hawke Building,
50 North Terrace, Adelaide.
For current exhibition details go to
or phone 8302 0371.
Kerry Packer Civic Gallery
Showcasing the work
produced in the Tutti Visual
Arts Program by young adults
with intellectual disabilities.
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