Theater vet steps into the role of the ultimate stage mom in 'Gypsy' 

e. A self-described "broad," this 25-year veteran of the stage has had her share of brash, salty female roles. But it is her turn at portraying one of theater's most notorious broads, Rose Hovick, that has Halenda truly testing her acting chops "? and loving every minute of it "? in the musical "Gypsy," which begins Tuesday and runs through April 29 at Civic Center Music Hall.

Loosely based on the memoirs of striptease artist Gypsy Rose Lee, the musical follows stage mother Rose Hovick's overbearing attempt to catapult daughters June and Louise to vaudeville stardom, and vicariously to escape a humdrum life. When June runs away, daughter Louise is the one pushed into fame "? in whatever form it takes.

A part originated by Ethel Merman in 1959, Rose Hovick "? sometimes called "Mama Rose" "? has been interpreted by the likes of Rosalind Russell, Angela Lansbury and Patti LuPone. And in this current national tour of "Gypsy," no cast member feels the pressure of comparison more than Halenda.

"There's always a risk of comparison when so many great actresses have played this role," she said. "But all of the actresses who have had this role have had the same script to work with, so we all are confined to the same words, the same lyrics. But I like to think that we bring a different color, our own flavor, to it."

"?Deborah Benjamin

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