Nicole Halmos is currently playing the role of Rose in “Gypsy,” now playing at the Cumberland Theatre through May 27th.
In 2017, Nicole appeared at the Cumberland Theatre as the Mother Abbess in “Drinking Habits” and as Margaret in “Carrie the Musical.” Last year she also was seen as Fraulein Schneider in Embassy Theater’s production of “Cabaret.” Her work includes productions at The Joseph Papp Public Theater, La Mama, The Ontological, The Shakespeare Theatre of Washington, D.C., Yale Repertory, Virginia Stage, Dallas Theater Center, Triad Stage, Baltimore Center Stage, The Wellfleet Theater, Mill Mountain Theater and Ford’s Theatre. National tours include “Romeo and Juliet,” and “The Sound of Music” with Marie Osmond and Debbie Boone (though not at the same time). Recordings include the world premiere of Maura Ellen’s “Three Blondes and a Bowl,” David Spencer’s “The Fabulist,” Cheryl Davis’ and C. Colby Sachs’ “Sugar Dumpling” and two episodes of Misfit Toys Industries’ premiere season of radio dramas, “The Darklands.” Nicole is a graduate of Carnegie-Mellon University and teaches acting and voice.
For more information about “Gypsy,” click here.
Is your performance as Rose closer to the style of Ethel Merman, Angela Lansbury, Bernadette Peters, Patty LuPone or Bette Midler?
Well, of course, I’ve only heard Merman and Lansbury, but I have seen Peters, LuPone and Midler as well as Tyne Daly, Betty Buckley and Rosalind Russell in the original film version. I learn different things from seeing each of them – different takes on particular scenes and songs and some overall character choices. I don’t know if other people will see shades of any of those other ladies, but from my point of view this Rose is mine. I do like to see what other actors and productions have brought to the piece but in the end, I go from the text and score and what the director, designers and other actors around me are bringing to the world of this particular production.
Growing up, did you have a “stage mother” pushing you to become a performer?
Not at all! My parents have been unbelievably supportive of my career, but never pushy and I think would have been relieved had I chosen a different career path. When I was a child, I didn’t realize that the Shirley Temple movies I loved to watch on Saturday mornings weren’t current, and I wanted nothing more than for my mother to traipse me around the country to do shows, but that wasn’t her vision or her job as a mother. That said, I was very lucky to have been exposed to theatre and music and literature and art while growing up. Those are things that feed the soul. It really has always been about the work and the creation and not about being a big star – which is a good thing – since I’d have been sorely disappointed. There wasn’t any person pushing me to do this – there was a need- an internal need. Asking me to not be an actor would be like asking me to change the size of my feet. It’s just part of who I am. There have been stretches in my life when I haven’t been acting and it’s not pretty. Some essential part of me is extinguished and it effects every other part of my life. Even when I’m in angst struggling with some aspect of a role, I’m a better, happier person than when I’m not working.
Besides performing, you also teach acting and singing. Do you sometimes find yourself being like Rose?
I don’t think so – but I suppose you might want to ask my students. As a teacher and coach, I think my job is to teach a process, a technique of how to do the work and to help each student grow from the place they are currently. It’s not about comparing or competing with someone else. I think students want tangible things to work on and part of my job is to help them figure out how to do that. It’s about owning who and where you are, figuring out what your strengths and challenges are, and working from there. That doesn’t mean I’m not critical. I think telling someone everything they do is perfect is stealing their money, but unlike Rose, I would never tell someone they had “no talent,” because I don’t believe that’s true. Some people are better at some things than others, either naturally or because of training, but everyone can improve. Rose appropriates her daughter’s successes because she didn’t have her own. When students have success it belongs to them. I’m happy and proud of them, but it doesn’t belong to me.
What’s the last thing you do before you step out onto the stage?
Exhale. I have a lot of stage fright even though I love acting more than anything, so the last thing I do is take some deep breaths and get out of my own way.
What’s the biggest challenge about taking on this role?
The sheer size of it! Rose has been a dream role of mine for a long time, and even though I’ve seen the show multiple times, knew the music and the journey of the character, it wasn’t until I was actually doing it that I realized the stamina it takes. Rose is in almost every scene and when you’re not on stage, you’re changing costumes. All the songs are big and rangy and she talks a lot! She goes on a huge, life-changing journey and drives the play. It’s been a real challenge for me to be present and truthful in the role and still pace myself so that I have the energy and voice left for end of the show – not to mention the next day. I’ve played Hamlet, Lady MacBeth, done one-woman shows where I’ve never left the stage, lots of other leads, but this is, without question, the hardest thing I’ve ever done on stage.