When she created "Menopause: The Musical," Central Floridian Jeanie Linders tapped into something in the psyches of women of a certain age. Suddenly, "the change" was something to celebrate, an excuse for a fabulously silly girls' night out.
With her newest show, "The D*Word: A Musical," Linders is hoping to strike a similar chord with those who have been "ditched, dumped, divorced and dating" as the show's tagline states.
Although presumably everyone has had a broken heart at one time or another, "The D*Word" is most definitely geared to a female audience — which was enthusiastically singing, clapping, hooting and hollering during the show's world premiere on Thursday.
It's an energetic combination of daytime-TV female talkfest "The View" and scenes reminiscent of a Lifetime movie — with all the sophistication of Broadway's ABBA musical, "Mamma Mia!"
Whether that's praise or condemnation depends, I suppose, on your point of view.
Linders, who is also the show's writer, has assembled an eclectic song list. It's a jukebox for the ages with The Miracles' "Shop Around," Bonnie Tyler's "It's A Heartache" and Duffy's "Mercy" among the surprise gems.
And the charm, and believable camaraderie of the four singer-actresses, go a long way toward selling the goofiness — especially when talk turns to sex toys (sold discreetly at the souvenir kiosk).
The show opens at a speed-dating night, where the audience meets four women. Erica (Angie McKnight) is divorced and in a 14-year sexual "dry spell." DeeDee (Jacinda Rose Swinehart), naive and frumpy, is recently divorced. Kate (Laura Wright) feels her biological clock ticking and isn't looking for marriage — just a "sperm donor." Jen (Sarah Hester Ross) has broken off a 6-year engagement with her high-school sweetheart — after discovering he's in love with a man.
Linders' story mixes female-empowerment clichés with comic setups, throws in some lame 20-year-old gay jokes and adds some last-minute melodrama for good measure. But none of it really matters except as a vehicle to get the women to the next big musical number.
Some of those are quite good, especially when the women blend like the girl groups of yesteryear. Swineheart, a fine comic actress, delivers a fierce "Before He Cheats," the country revenge anthem of a woman scorned. Ross powers through a blistering rendition of Linda Ronstadt's "You're No Good."
Director Mayme Paul's choreography is cute on "Shop Around" and over-the-top comical during Bonnie Tyler's "Holding Out for Hero." But it sinks into awkward 1990s boy-band moves in the disappointing finale — a pallid cover of Kelly Clarkson's "Stronger."
That doesn't stop the cheers in the crowd, though, for Linders has in fact successfully tapped into a primal need of anyone who has been dumped: To feel attractive, to feel wanted, to have friends to share laughter, to belt out a Cher dancefloor anthem.
Party on, ladies.
'The D*Word: A Musical'
• What: A Jeanie Linders production of an original musical about being "ditched, dumped, divorced and dating."
• Length: 90 minutes, no intermission
• Where: The Abbey, 100 S. Eola Drive, Orlando
• When: Various days and times, generally Wednesdays-Sundays, through March 2
• Tickets: $40
• Call: 407-704-6261
• Online: thedwordmusical.comCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun