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Toneisha Harris in HAIRSPRAY

HAIRSPRAY comes dancing back to reopen the Broadway San Diego theatre season with dancing, joy, and an energy-packed show November 16 -21, 2021. Though the show premiered 20 years ago the show brings a renewed energy and an unforgettable cast including Toneisha Harris from NBC’s “The Voice” as Motormouth Maybelle, and Andrew Levitt aka Nina West as Edna Turnblad. Toneisha talks about how excited she is to play this role, why this show is still so relevant, and what it’s like working with this amazing cast.

Photo Credit: Toneisha Harris, from HAIRSPRAY National tour
Photo Credit: Toneisha Harris, from HAIRSPRAY National tour

HAIRSPRAY follows the journey of Tracy Turnblad, a 1960’s girl who wants to dance on her favorite tv program, The Corny Collins show with all of the cool kids. But when prejudices get in the way of Tracy and her friends pursuing their dreams, sometimes the only thing you can do is try to change the world without ruining your hairdo.

Tonesiha Harris, who you’ve seen on television in NBC”s “The Voice” and who has music available on Apple Music, plays Motormouth Maybelle. Maybelle is a soulful character who is a DJ, a record producer, and imparts her wisdom of fighting against prejudice to the kids of the show, and shows Edna that beauty doesn’t have anything to do with your weight. Her songs,”I Know Where I’ve Been”, and “Big, Blonde, and Beautiful” are show stoppers for sure.

Harris, says that she is excited to tackle this role, one that she has long admired for both the role and the social message it imparts.

“Being able to portray Motormouth Maybelle is an amazing honor of mine, This is a dream come true.

I believe her songs drive home several of the points, not all of them, but some of the points in the show. When we came together and did our first read-through and I got to “I Know Where I’ve Been” I closed my eyes and sang the song, lost in the moment as a mom, as a wife, as a protector, and I was lost in it. I felt every single word, every moment and I took myself on a journey, and what I didn’t realize is that I had taken to a room on a journey as well. I just started bawling at the last note, I got it out and then started crying.

I can only hope that it will land on the audience in every single city, and every single night that it falls on someone in the audience. Not just because it’s a soul-stirring song but that maybe the lyrics will wake something up in them and realize that we are the agents of change and that in order to do this we have to do this together, we really are better together.”

Toneisha says that even though this show is 20 years old, the show is more than entertainment, but also has a message that can reach everyone.

“As an African American woman and the mother of two adult African American sons, I understand the nature of the world that we live in and how we can become very afraid because our day-to-day lives can be threatened very quickly. So I bring that into my character; my Motormouth Maybelle is like this mother hen that has all of these children that I care for and it reaches beyond the African Americans in the story, I get to reach beyond color, gender, and all of these different things and they all become my babies and I want to protect them. We get to tell this story and this journey and hope that people will not just see it, hear it, and be entertained, but that they will also be changed.

There are people who still deal with bullying, that are dealing with racism, a lot of us still deal with the #MeToomovement, all of these different things that are still very alive and relevant today I feel are touched in this story.”

The cast of HAIRSPRAY, photo by Jeremy Daniel Photo
The cast of HAIRSPRAY, photo by Jeremy Daniel Photo

Along with Nicki Metcalf as Tracy, Tonesiha also shares the stage with the fiercely fabulous Andrew Levitt, who you may also know as Nina West from “RuPaul’s Drag Race”, playing Edna. Harris says that working with Levitt has been amazing and that audiences are going to love his portrayal as Edna.

“Working with Andrew has been amazing because I have gotten to see Andrew and not just Nina West. When he steps into the Edna character he takes that artistry very seriously and he is Edna and not Nina and he does an amazing job.

When we first met it was like we had already known each other because he had watched me on tv and I had watched him on tv. So when we finally got the chance to meet it was great watching him embody this Edna character. People are going to love it.”

You can follow Tonesiha’s journey with the national tour of HAIRSPRAY on her Instagram @IamToneishaHarris and on Twitter and Tik Tok as well @ToneishaHarris. You can also find her music available on Apple Music.

How to Get Tickets

You can catch Toneisha Harris and the cast of HAIRSPRAY at Broadway San Diego from November 16th -21st, 2021.

All patrons will be required to wear masks and sho w proof of full vaccination, or a negative Covid-19 PCR within 72 hours, or a rapid antigen test performed by a medical professional within 12 hours of showtime t o attend all events through December 31, 2021.

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