'Drag Race' star steps into Edna Turnbald's shoes in 'Hairspray' - Albuquerque Journal

‘Drag Race’ star steps into Edna Turnbald’s shoes 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, awaiting opening night on stage.

Levitt has been starring in the national tour of the Tony Award-winning musical “Hairspray,” where he portrays Edna Turnblad.

It’s not the first time Levitt has been on a national stage. On season 11 of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” Levitt won over viewers’ hearts with his drag persona Nina West. During the season, he was named Miss Congeniality.

“The truth of it, it’s been the greatest challenge and greatest joy to step into these shoes,” Levitt says. “Obviously, the original Broadway version had Harvey Fierstein and the two films had Divine and John Travolta in the same role as me. My goal was to specifically to leave my mark on it. What I’ve learned through Nina West is that we need the audience to believe this is a real woman. I’ve learned how to create a character and make them seem real. Edna is very much my own.”

“Hairspray” will begin its six-performance stand at Popejoy Hall beginning on Thursday, Oct. 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 mother, Edna, Tracy becomes an overnight sensation when her dance moves win her a role on “The Corny Collins Show,” a teen dance show on local TV.

Before long she’s leading a campaign to integrate the all-white “The Corny Collins Show” and eventually breaks down the color barriers.

Levitt says being part of the musical, one has to be willing to get their hands dirty.

“We’re not doing well as a nation and that’s an understatement,” he says. “The only agenda of the show is for people to be celebrated as themselves. It gives permission to celebrate all of our differences. ‘Hairspray’ is a great gift and I hope people will see the beauty in it.”

Since the national tour started, Levitt is quick to not take one moment for granted and holds on to the lessons he’s learned from Edna.

“I relate to Edna,” he says. “I’m a bigger guy and I’m self-conscious about my own weight and I love hard, just like she does. I get to have this physical transformation from inside out each night. At first, you see Edna and she is homely. Then she comes out of this giant cocoon and loves herself. That excites me each night. I’ve learned to understand my worth.”

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

One of them is being a part of “Hairspray,” which he’ll be a part of until June 2023 when his contract is up.

“I’m about to release a children’s book about kindness,” he says. “Of course, I’ve had the Nina West Foundation for years that gives back to the community. It’s all very fun and celebrating yourself.”

Home » Entertainment » ‘Drag Race’ star steps into Edna Turnbald’s shoes in ‘Hairspray’


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