Windy City Media Group Frontpage News


home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2023-09-06



THEATER "The world keeps spinnin' 'round and 'round" for Andrew Levitt in Hairspray
by Jerry Nunn

This article shared 1886 times since Fri Jan 28, 2022
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

"Welcome to the '60s," where psychedelic fashions ruled and mini-skirts were everywhere. Soul music gained a strong voice while segregation separated the dance floors. John Waters' original 1988 film Hairspray displayed drag diva Divine as mother Edna Turnblad, and made Ricki Lake (who portrayed daughter Tracy) a star.

In 2002, a Broadway musical version premiered with Harvey Fierstein in the role of Edna. The show won 10 Tony Awards, including Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical for Fierstein.

Out performer Andrew Levitt now attempts to fill those high heels as iconic Edna while bringing a long history of drag artistry to Chicago's CIBC Theatre. Levitt is known for his drag persona of Nina West, who catapulted to fame on the eleventh season of RuPaul's Drag Race. She came in sixth place and won Miss Congeniality.

Levitt released three EPs and started The Nina West Fund at The Columbus Foundation to assist with a variety of charities. He took a break from his performance duties in Detroit to discuss Hairspray and an important cause that doesn't stop.

Windy City Times: You are originally from Ohio?

Andrew Levitt: Yes, from northeast Ohio—a community called Canton. I was born in Detroit, grew up in Canton and moved to Columbus for college.

WCT: Did you always want to perform?

AL: Yes. I think the first production I ever saw was a national tour of Cats in 1984. At six years old I knew that is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, but not be a cat! [laughs]

It grew from there. Every experience with the arts changed me. It was always a reaffirmation that it was what I wanted to do. It is how I found my path.

WCT: Do you have a favorite musical?

AL: I love Sondheim, with Into the Woods and Company. I love the classics like Sound of Music. I am a Julie Andrews fanatic!

WCT: What was your journey to land the role in Hairspray?

AL: I always wanted to do theater, but fell into drag for 18 years as Nina West. My season of RuPaul's Drag Race aired in 2019. It changed my life and every opportunity was at my fingertips. I had done Harvey Fierstein for Snatch Game on Drag Race. Jerry Mitchell, who was the original choreographer on Hairspray, saw me play this and called me. He said that he had a dream about me where I played Edna.

I met with Jack O'Brien, who directed Hairspray on Broadway. I was cast as Edna and everything shut down due to the pandemic in March 2019. I thought it wouldn't happen but here we are on the road and doing our best. Last night we didn't have a show because a cast member caught COVID. The audiences are showing us such grace and patience as we navigate this world right now.

When the curtain goes up on this show, people will feel the energy of this music. I think this show is vital. We needed a shot in the arm of joy to go with our vaccinations!

WCT: How do you get to make the character of Edna Turnblad your own in the touring production?

AL: There have been so many great performances of her with Divine, Harvey Fierstein and Bruce Vilanch. My task is very simple with this iconic role. I need the audience to believe that I am a woman. It is all based in truth and reality. As a drag queen performer who is used to being over the top, I had to really hone it in and make it believable with my actions.

Edna is the heart of this production. The audience gets to see her transformation from beginning to end. My Edna is vulnerable, sensitive and emotional. She cares for her kid and her husband. Those are her greatest joys. I am fond of her and she has transformed my life in ways I never could have imagined.

WCT: In terms of preparing backstage, how does the Edna Turnblad character compare to the Nina West character?

AL: Edna is easy at the beginning of the show. I add dark circles under my eyes. Nina is such a bright character from the jump. The energy between the two is so different.

The audience may never know it, but there are subtle changes throughout the show as Edna. The makeup is more contoured at the beginning and then gets lighter.

It takes me 20 minutes to do Edna's makeup and Nina takes me two hours.

WCT: You dedicate this performance to Kathy Ringley. Was she your teacher?

AL: Yes, she was a teacher of mine who drove me to my first audition at a community theater in my hometown. She passed away in 2021, so I didn't have the chance to share the news about this show with her. She changed my life and embraced me as a queer kid who wasn't able to be out.

WCT: What are your thoughts on season 14 of RuPaul's Drag Race?

AL: I love what the show does for the art form and our community. The new season is fantastic and I am obsessed with Kornbread, like the rest of the world. I like how they keep the show fresh and have the new chocolate bar twist. I would have to eat that chocolate bar!

WCT: What if all the winners of Miss Congeniality competed with each other as a show?

AL: Let me tell you that would be the cattiest season ever! [Laughs] There would be me, Heidi N Closet, LaLa Ri, Pandora Boxx, Katya, Latrice Royale and Monet X Change. It would such a good season, but I wouldn't expect sunshine and lollipops!

WCT: Talk about The Nina West Fund.

AL: It is a charitable foundation that is a 501(c)(3) based in Columbus, Ohio. We give money to LGBTQIA+ causes. Sometimes it is voter activations for BIPOC communities, trans rights or LGBT youth suicide prevention. It all stems from me growing up and feeling alone as a queer kid. I don't want others to feel alone.

With Florida classrooms not being able to talk about gender identity or LGBTQ issues, they are basically throwing kids away. We have more work to do and it is never done. We have to pull together as a country and as queer people to have conversations together. The foundation is there to provide a voice and support with financial resources. If people can make a donation to my foundation that is great or find an organization in Chicago that needs help.

You can give your time, talent or money. I learned as a young drag queen to add a number at the end of my show and donate those tips to an organization.

Everyone's voice and actions matter. I hope everyone can band together and tackle these issues before our community is erased.

The beat doesn't stop Feb.1-13 at the CIBC Theatre, 18 W. Monroe St., with tickets at .

To donate to The Nina West Fund, visit .

This article shared 1886 times since Fri Jan 28, 2022
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Out and Aging
Presented By


Gay News

SHOWBIZ John Waters, Madonna, Miriam Margoyles, Angelica Ross, 'Cassandro' 2023-09-21
- Openly gay film director John Waters (Pink Flamingos, Serial Mom, Cry-Baby) received his star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame, The Hollywood Reporter noted. (Actors Ricki Lake and Mink Stole as well as photographer Greg Gorman were ...

Gay News

SHOWBIZ Kim Petras, LGBTQ+ movies, TIFF, canceled shows, yachts 2023-09-15
Video below - Ahead of her Feed the Beast world tour, Grammy-winning international trans pop singer/songwriter Kim Petras has shared reimagined, symphonic, seven-piece string-ensemble performances of fan favorites from her debut album Feed ...

Gay News

THEATER Queer actor Kyle Patrick reflects on leading 'American Psycho: The Musical' 2023-09-14
- American Psycho—both the Bret Easton Ellis novel and the Mary Harron-directed film led by Christian Bale—would seem ripe for a musical treatment, given the omnipresent campy elements (despite, or maybe because of, the gore). And, in ...

Gay News

Chicago Opera Theater starts 50th-anniv. season with 'Soldier Songs' 2023-09-13
- Chicago Opera Theater (COT) is kicking off its 50th-anniversary season with David T. Little's Grammy-nominated Soldier Songs—described as "a haunting, heavy-metal infused theatrical cantata about the psychological impact of war." ...

Gay News

Porchlight Music Theatre's announces 29th season 2023-09-12
--From a press release - This past Friday at our special event, Porchlight ICONS: Celebrating Ben Vereen, we shared the exclusive announcement of our 29th Season! The new season launches with The Cole Porter Festival - A Celebration of the Man ...

Gay News

THEATER Jim Henson production in Chicago on Nov. 14-Dec. 31 2023-09-12
- A live theatrical adaptation of Jim Henson's Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas is making its Chicago debut Nov. 14-Dec. 31, at the Studebaker Theater at the historic Fine Arts Building, 410 S. Michigan Ave., Broadway World revealed. ...

Gay News

SHOWBIZ 'Sex Education' star, Rotten Tomatoes, Jessica Lange, Queer/Art 2023-09-08
Video below - Sex Education star Ncuti Gatwa officially came out during an interview with Elle UK, according to Out. "I remember being at Manchester Pride, going through the streets with all my boys, shaking my cha-chas, living it ...

Gay News

Theater Review: A Taste of Soul brings music and food center stage 2023-09-08
By Brian Kirst - We all know the sluggish quagmire of weekday work mornings. Often the only thing that gets us moving and able to face the day is our favorite songs. While all of the Black Ensemble Theater productions ...

Gay News

Steppenwolf to present Broadway's Jeremy Jordan on Jan. 13 2023-09-06
- Steppenwolf Theatre Company and Mark Cortale will present Broadway star Jeremy Jordan in his Chicago debut, performing two shows only on Saturday, Jan. 13, 2024 at 2 and 8 p.m. in Steppenwolf's Downstairs Theater, 1650 N. ...

Gay News

Mitchell J. Fain explores the American Dream in The Lehman Trilogy 2023-09-05
- Chicago actor Mitchell J. Fain is one of three performers headlining TimeLine Theatre Company's upcoming production of The Lehman Trilogy. Fain brings over 30 years of performing experience in the Chicago area to the table, including ...

Gay News

SHOWBIZ Military drama, Janelle Monae, Conan Gray, Dylan Mulvaney, Whoopi 2023-08-31
- The LGBTQ+ military drama Eismayer (from Dark Star Pictures and Golden Girls Film) will be out in theaters on Oct. 6, and on DVD and Digital on Oct. 10, per a press release. The plot is ...

Gay News

Chicago Gay Men's Chorus leader speaks on group's diversity, 'Sporty Forty' 2023-08-29
- The Chicago Gay Men's Chorus (CGMC) is marking its 40th-anniversary season this year, and will start this milestone on Sept. 15-16 with "Sporty Forty," an event that is layered in meanings involving stereotypes and the group's ...

Gay News

Britney Coleman keeps Company 2023-08-27
- Company is coming to Chi-town on tour with a fresh take on the classic musical that has already garnered five Tony Awards including Best Musical Revival. The original material in 1970 was nominated for 14 Tony ...

Gay News

Reeling: The Chicago LGBTQ+ International Film Fest announces 41st edition program 2023-08-21
--From a press release - Chicago, Illinois (August 18, 2023) — Reeling: The Chicago LGBTQ+ International Film Festival today announced its full slate of programming for the 41st edition of the second-longest running LGBTQ+ film ...

Gay News

THEATER Goodman to run 'Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil' in 2024 2023-08-17
- Goodman Theatre Artistic Director Susan Booth announced that Chicago will be first to experience the new musical Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil—based on John Berendt's iconic non-fiction book—next summer. With a book by ...


Copyright © 2023 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.






About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam     
Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.