‘Drag Race’ star replaces Edna Turnbald in ‘Hairspray’

From left, Niki Metcalf as Tracy Turnblad and Andrew Levitt (aka Nina West) as Edna Turnblad and company in “Hairspray.” (Courtesy of Jeremy Daniel)

Andrew Levitt is in Spokane, Washington waiting for opening night on stage.

Levitt starred in the nationwide tour of the Tony Award-winning musical “Hairspray,” where he played Edna Turnblad.

This isn’t Levitt’s first time on the national stage. In Season 11 of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” Levitt captured the hearts of viewers with his drag character Nina West. During the season, he was named Miss Congeniality.

“The truth is, it’s the biggest challenge and the greatest joy to put these shoes on,” says Levitt. “Obviously, the original Broadway version had Harvey Fierstein and both films had Divine and John Travolta in the same role as me. My goal was precisely to leave my mark there. What I learned thanks to Nina West , is that we need the audience to believe that this is a real woman. I learned how to create a character and make it seem real. Edna really belongs to me.

“Hairspray” will open its six-performance stand at Popejoy Hall starting Thursday, October 6.

“Hairspray” tells the story of Tracy Turnblad, a teenager with big hair and big dreams.

Andrew Levitt (aka Nina West)

Despite the objections of her stay-at-home mom, Edna, Tracy becomes an overnight sensation when her dance moves land her a role on “The Corny Collins Show”, a teen dance show on local television.

Soon, she is campaigning to be on the all-white “The Corny Collins Show” and ends up breaking color barriers.

Levitt says being part of the musical, you have to be prepared to get your hands dirty.

“We are not doing well as a nation to put it mildly,” he said. “The only program on the show is for people to be celebrated as themselves. It helps celebrate all of our differences. ‘Hairspray’ is a great giveaway and I hope people see the beauty of it.

Since the start of the national tour, Levitt has not taken a moment for granted and clings to the lessons he learned from Edna.

“I identify with Edna,” he says. “I’m a bigger guy and I’m aware of my own weight and I really like it, just like she does. I can have this physical transformation from the inside out every night. In the beginning you see Edna and she’s simple ” Then she comes out of this giant cocoon and loves herself. It turns me on every night. I learned to understand my value.

Levitt says being on “RuPaul’s Drag Race” has helped open many doors.

One of them is part of “Hairspray”, which he will be part of until June 2023, when his contract will be finished.

“I’m about to release a children’s book about kindness,” he says. “Of course, I’ve had the Nina West Foundation for years giving back to the community. It’s a lot of fun and it’s to celebrate.

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