A celebration of women, Menopause the Musical, written by Jeanie Linders, features four middle-aged women who meet in a department store and bond over the effects of “The Change,” a euphemism for menopause. The four woman cast sings well-known songs about menopausal symptoms, including hot flashes and food cravings.
On March 22, the Wheel interviewed Ingrid Cole, an Atlanta-based actor and singer who has toured the United States extensively with Menopause the Musical, over the phone. She plays one of the four women, Earth Mother. In addition, Cole was awarded the Suzi Bass Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical for her roles in A Catered Affair and Gypsy in 2010 and 2012, respectively.
The musical comedy, now in its fourteenth year of production, will have four performances at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre in Atlanta from April 1 to 3.
Michelle Lou, The Emory Wheel: There are many pop culture songs that are parodied in the play. Which song was your favorite, and why?
Ingrid Cole: There’s a song called “Puff the Magic Dragon,” and I come out singing, “Puff, my god I’m dragging,” and it’s kind of like I’m working out during [the song]. It’s kind of a silly song, but I can relate to it. I just joined LA Fitness.
ML: How did you prepare to play the character of Earth Mother?
IC: [Earth Mother] was really easy to prepare [for] because we’re very similar, so other than just learning lines, it was a super easy transition, because we’re very similar — we’re both nurturing, moms, caretakers, peacemakers and funny. That was an easy transition.
ML: In which ways is Earth Mother unlike you?
IC: When I first started doing her, I was 35, and she’s supposed to be 55, so she’s got like 20 years on me. Now that I’m 45 — I’ve been doing the show for 10 years — I actually feel a little bit closer to her.
ML: Do you recommend that males see this show as well? What could they hope to learn from the show’s message about female empowerment?
IC: First of all, men love the show, because … we [the actors] look up and watch them, and they’re nodding their heads going, “Uh-huh, that’s her!” And we’re doing it through these songs that everyone knows. Everyone grew up with these songs [that] are still popular. Men, they sit there, they laugh, they have a good time. There’s no male-bashing or anything like that, of course. We talk about our husbands in the show, but men really, really walk away loving the show. Plus, it’s 90 minutes of laughing. The men come up to us after saying, “Thank you, that was so much fun!” I think at first, they’re totally like, “Ugh, what am I doing here? There’s a basketball game on,” or “I don’t need to be here,” but then, when they leave, they’re totally with us.
ML: Can you share a memorable moment from being part of Menopause the Musical?
IC: We’re such a family, the girls and I. There’s probably about 20 of us that do the show around the country, and we’re all just one big sisterhood, so that’s just been a blessing to me. But the main thing is afterwards, when women come up to us and say, “I thought I was alone. I was scared. I thought I was going crazy.” But it’s just menopause. All of us girls have had these stories where someone will come up to us and just be like, “I haven’t laughed in two years because I have cancer, and I just want to thank you … because I needed this.” So [this musical comedy] ends up being the best medicine. How could you not love your job when you’re making people laugh? I feel really blessed to be a part of Menopause the Musical.
ML: Most of your roles are in musicals. How do songs add another layer of complexity to a work?
IC: If we were out to coffee, and something amazing happens, and I have to tell you, but I can’t just tell you by telling you — I have to make it amazing and sing it to you. And when that happens, when that art form happens, there’s just nothing like it. You can go see a movie, but when you go see a live show where people are singing live at you, it’s just so exciting and so much more fun. I often times will go see a play, and I’ll turn to my wife, and I’ll be like, “Ugh, we really need a music number here” because I’m so bored.
I do have an infatuation with musicals, but I don’t just do musicals. I’ve been doing a lot of TV and film recently. I do plays, as well. I do a lot of singing throughout Atlanta. I’m a staff singer at Peachtree Presbyterian, and I sing lots of weddings and funerals. I just recently wrote a show called Cole Sings Cole, [which is] me singing 90 minutes of Cole Porter music. Singing is definitely a part of me.
ML: How did you get into acting?
IC: I sang my first solo when I was eight years old at church, and in middle school, I remember my chorus teacher was like, “I need you to say these lines. We’re going to do a play.” I was just really brave, and I was good at it. It just kind of stuck with me all through high school; I did drama [and] chorus. [In] college, it was the same thing. I was a Theater and Music major, and it was just a natural progression to study and still study. [Eventually,] I made it my career.
ML: Do you have any advice for Emory students who hope to pursue a career in the performing arts?
IC: Yes. Keep studying, no matter what! Once you graduate, it’s just the beginning. I’m 45 years old, and I just came from a drama class last night. Just don’t stop taking classes and learning. That’s the best advice I could give.
ML: What are your plans for the future? (Roles, your humanitarian projects, in general)
IC: I do a lot of mission work with my church. I’m hoping to take my Cole Sings Cole show that I’ve written around the country. I’d like to get it booked, which is what I’m working on right this second. I’m continually auditioning; so much film stuff is happening in Atlanta right now.