Hairspray National Tour Definitely Started "the Beat" in Amazing San Diego Debut Bringing Broadway Back After a Year and a Half

The Musical has a Well-Rounded and Impressive Cast that Showcase All the Skills and Threats Onstage

Led by Drag Race Alumnus Andrew Levitt aka Nina West as Edna Turnblad,  Niki Metcalf as Tracy Turnblad, and The Voice Finalist Toneisha Harris as Motormouth Maybelle

BlogView by Alejandra Enciso-Dardashti

Broadway San Diego came back in absolute style after 625 days, (wow) kicking off their 44th season with Hairspray, playing a limited engagement until Sunday, November 21. San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria partook in the official kick-off by declaring November 16 as Broadway San Diego Re-Opening Day. 

You Can't Stop The Beat. Photo by Chris Bennion and Jeremy Daniel.

On Wednesday, considered opening night, large amounts of people showed up eager and ready to welcome back this art form. A few changes have taken place after the last time in 2020. Audience members have to go through a metal detector to get into the theatre, Covid safety protocols also take place, checking for a negative test or proof of vaccination, and all tickets are digital. Which I consider to be wonderful. Less paper, less fuzz, and more convenience.

Good Morning Baltimore. Photo by Phil Martin and Jeremy Daniel.
This new cast for the Tony Award-winning musical is extraordinarily comprised of talented, and very well-trained artists that showcase different skills like dance, baton twirling, and comedy along with amazing vocals. Andrew Levitt (Nina West) as Edna Turnblad and Toneisha Harris as Motormouth Maybelle, bring aspirational values to the already well put together ensemble. RuPaul's Drag Race fans might recall Levitt auditioning year, after year, after year, and not getting in. The fact that now he is headlining a national Broadway Tour is just wonderful, wrapping it in a big, hot pink bow with his spectacular talent and nailing it as Tracy's bold and mouthy mother. Fans for Toneisha Harris definitely made an appearance at the San Diego Civic Theatre cheering the singer on. And even for people who are not aware, once you see the powerful and raspy notes she belts out, you will become a fan too. 

Niki Metcalf as the star of detention, dance, and charisma Tracy Turnblad, is sweet and endearing. Castmates Emery Henderson as pretty girl Penny Pingleton and Brandon G. Stalling as Seaweed J. Stubbs hold their performance weight tight. Emery with great comedic ability and Brandon with some serious dance moves along with incredible vocals. Arianna Grande played this character in the televised live musical. I believe Emery resembles her a tad. Maybe it's just me

Addison Garner as the vicious TV producer and obsessed stage mom Velma Von Tussle is fierce! First, she twirls batons like no one's business, then she has mad jocose power and stamina! being one of the characters that hardly leaves the stage, that is also mention-worthy. Speaking of jocose, Emmanuelle Zeesman, playing three roles, Prudy Pingleton, Gym Teacher, and Matron, was an absolute hoot and not an easy task to land. Total quality over quantity. 

As mentioned in the beginning, the cast is flawless. But with everything, ones stood out more than others. Micheal Corey Hassel who plays Gilbert, I see you, those awesome moves, flawless make-up and lashes, I see you!. Renée Reid as Pearl, I see AND hear you with those powerful vocals. Christopher Swan as the loving dad and husband Wilbur Turnblad is witty, sweet, and overall nice guy. Great stage match with Andrew Levitt.

A Broadway touring show is really like no other. It has this incredible feel to it. With detailed and popping set designs, a live orchestra, and tons of people making it happen backstage. Of course, in Hairspray, the wigs designed by Paul Huntley, are also key. And, there is a San Diego connection to the show being that former Old Globe Artistic Director Jack O'Brien is the original director of this wonderful piece with book by Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan, music & arrangements and lyrics by Marc Shaiman and original choreography by Jerry Mitchell. For a full list of all the amazing creatives, cast, and people BTS, click here.    

The other noteworthy thing about Hairspray is the topics of the story. One set in Baltimore during the sixties contains very present topics like discrimination, racism, fat-shaming, and bullying. When that is on the table through song, a different feeling comes but it does not make it less serious.

Hairspray will make audiences feel good and want to break out in dance, even if they do not like to dance or feel that they can't. 

I understand we are still in difficult, challenging times and some venues are figuring out how to navigate through them to make everyone feel comfortable and safe. However, in the performance that I saw,  people around me did not wear a mask during the entire thing. Noting it as an observation being that other venues do have ushers enforcing the policies. Just saying. We want musicals and other cool happenings there for a long and uninterrupted time.

So mask up and dance your way to welcome back Broadway to the San Diego stage and enjoy Hairspray that will be in town until this Sunday, November 21! Rush Tickets are available for purchase 2 ½ hours prior to the show and end 1 hr prior to curtain. The prices are $25-35 dollars. Check with the box office first to confirm availability. For more info go to: .


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