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Nina West, aka Andrew Levitt, Tours in “Hairspray”

He’s known best for competing on the 11th season of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” but Andrew Levitt — also known as Nina West — is now headlining the new Broadway in Atlanta touring version of “Hairspray,” hitting the ATL May 30.

The performer vividly remembers seeing the John Waters film with Divine and of course the original stage version with Harvey Fierstein at the age of 23 only three days before it officially opened on Broadway. When asked, he jumped at the chance to play Edna Turnblad.

“‘Hairspray’ is this incredible, wonderfully brilliant Broadway musical filled with joy,” Levitt told Georgia Voice. “The character of Edna is one of the greatest characters written for the stage. She is complex, funny, sad. She has a lot of layers and that has been the greatest appeal in me wanting to do this project. It was also really thrilling to bring her to life in this era, 20 years after it opened, in the tour and have her be so celebrated.”

Levitt feels the musical is an opportunity to show skills he’s not been able to before. He brings his heart and joy and pain and own sadness to the role.

“Edna is lost in her own insecurity and troubles,” he said. “I relate to her being overweight. That hits home for me. I also relate to not feeling good enough in my own skin; I think that is something that resonates with all of us. What I bring to her is my willingness to be as authentic with my own insecurity and pain as much as possible.”

Levitt calls the book of the musical one of the most fabulous ever written. He also gives kudos to the hummable score.

Life on the tour has been a pleasure. By the time he arrives in Atlanta, it will have been 18 months, and he’ll be winding down at the end of June.

“It is so awesome to go around the country and share this story to audiences and have the opportunity to see the country and be exposed to culture locally,” Levitt said. “I cannot wait to be in Atlanta to eat the food and shop and be a part of the city for a week.”

He’s been to the city many times before, for both personal and professional purposes. In 2009, he performed at the “Stars of the Century” drag event.

“RuPaul’s Drag Race” changed Levitt’s entire career, pulling him out of Columbus, Ohio, and plopping him on a global stage.

“I did Harvey Fierstein as a character [for Snatch Game] and Jerry Mitchell, the choreographer of ‘Hairspray,’ saw me do that and reached out, as did Harvey, who said he was flattered,” he said. “Two months later, Jerry called me again to say he was doing a re-launch of ‘Hairspray’ and wanted me to do Edna. I thought, ‘What the hell?’ Literally the entire reason I am doing the show is because of ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race.’ I cannot be more grateful and thankful.”

Following in Fierstein’s shoes is intimidating, however, which was Levitt’s initial hesitation with saying yes to the role.

“Harvey is so iconic,” he said. “One of the first things people were saying when it was announced I was doing this was, ‘Oh my God, are you going to be doing the voice?’ They meant am I going to imitate Harvey. No! I have to find and use my own voice. I have to do my own version of Edna.”

Levitt also recently released a children’s book, “The You Kind of Kind.” He wrote it during the pandemic and it was in the works while he was on “Drag Race” in 2019.

“All of these things were playing into what made me write the book, but I had no idea how important it would be,” he said. “Drag is under attack now.”

Levitt’s sad about the current state of affairs, with drag bans spreading across the country.

“Drag is an incredibly beautiful, powerful life force to the LGBTQIA community,” he said. “It is an art form that provides not only entertainment, but advocacy and agency. I think that is why people on the right find it threatening, because it is so powerful. These are false cries — that drag queens are groomers and pedophiles. That’s not real. It is disgusting that those kinds of allegations are being levied against the community, that our queerness is so threatening to people who don’t appreciate ‘the other.’ It is a very scary time to be a drag artist now, but it doesn’t mean that we stop or should be erased and go back into the closet. I am going to continue to push and be a voice for the community.”


Hairspray” runs May 30–June 4 at the Fox Theatre