One of the things I truly missed during the height of the pandemic shutdown was having the opportunity to enjoy live theatre. There is good news for theatre lovers in Yakima.

High school productions are back, the Warehouse Theatre is back staging live, local productions, and of course, the Capitol Theatre is bringing live theatre back with touring productions of some of your Broadway favorites.

My friend, author, and fellow theatre enthusiast, Debra Yergen offered her review of the latest show to be staged at the Capitol Theatre - Hairspray, The Musical.

Hairspray the Musical at The Capitol Theatre in Yakima

It’s 1962 and plus-sized, teenage Tracy Turnblad is ready to bid farewell to the stuffy 1950s and welcome a new era when she learns of an opening on Baltimore’s own, “The Corny Collins Show.” From her opening number, Good Morning, Baltimore, to the last dance, Hairspray the Musical wows on the highest levels, wrapping the audience in bright, pleasing sets, costumes, and colors and familiar music perfectly orchestrated and performed.

For those unfamiliar with the storyline, it’s about a young girl coming of age, who does not meet the stereotypical image of her classmates with tiny waistlines, in a world void of diversity. Larger-than-life Tracy is ahead of her time with big hair, setting a trend that will usher in one of the 1960s most iconic looks. Her dream of becoming famous overshadows her ability to focus on school, which lands her in detention; and detention opens her world to a cast of other talented misfits. What she learns in detention from her new friends changes her life and the lives of her neighbors in Baltimore and across the nation.

Hairspray, The Musical
Hairspray, The Musical

For those who have seen the movie, the musical is so catapultingly delicious. It’s comparable to that one perfect dessert or entrée you enjoyed on vacation, years ago – the one that makes you smile every time that memory crosses your mind. This touring production of Hairspray the Musical is that exquisite. For those who have seen Hairspray on Broadway and think this couldn’t possibly measure up, buy tickets now for the touring show and be prepared to be blown away. This cast and this show surpass every other production. Yes! It’s genuinely that amazing.

It will have you smiling, clapping, and cheering from the first number to the last. Every heroine and villain bring exactly the right tone. After two years of a pandemic and the reckoning of social injustice, Hairspray the Musical removes the divide and inspires everyone to feel great about creating an inclusive world.

It’s impossible to choose a favorite character or actor. They are all outstanding. Having said that, Andrew Levitt a.k.a. Nina West, the actor who portrays Tracy’s mom, Edna, is divine in the most vulnerable, flawed, and authentic way. She too had a dream, that she gave up to launder clothes for her family, friends, and customers. As she supports her daughter’s dream, she finds her own. I could not stop smiling, song-after-song, scene-after-scene. If you tuned into the 11th season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, you’ll remember Nina West. She placed sixth and won Miss Congeniality.

Toneisha Harris, the actor who portrays Motormouth, has a voice that will take you to church. Her talent is along the same caliber as Aretha Franklin and Jennifer Hudson. And like Hudson, Harris got her start as a contestant on a television show. She was a runner-up on The Voice in 2020. You will want to stand and applaud every time she belts out a note.

Speaking of applause, the audience gave this cast a well-deserved, five-minute standing ovation at the conclusion of the show.

Capitol Theatre CEO Charlie Robin, Debra Yergen
Capitol Theatre CEO Charlie Robin, Debra Yergen

Charlie Robin, CEO of The Capitol Theatre, welcomed the audience with a friendly acknowledgment that the safety measures put in place, including requiring vaccination cards and drivers’ licenses before entering the theatre and wearing masks (except when drinking water or taking selfies), is for the health of everyone. Yakima kicks off the year-long production tour, and the production team worked closely with the staff at The Capitol Theatre to keep audiences, and their cast and crew healthy.

I didn’t want this musical to end. It was exceptional in every way, every number, every scene, and every moment. Yakima came out big time. Almost every seat on the main level was filled Friday night. Downtown was booming. After two years of a pandemic, Yakima came out in mass and better than ever, to celebrate community and enjoy Hairspray the Musical.

The energy was pure joy. There were hugs and people were smiling, happy and kind to each other. Hairspray the Musical brought more than great entertainment to Yakima. It brought downtown Yakima back to life. There are tickets available for the matinee. If you’re ready to laugh, sing, clap, and embrace the world again, reserve your seat while Hairspray the Musical is in Yakima, or touring in a nearby city.

Debra Yergen, best-selling author, and executive director of Safe Yakima Valley

For tickets to this and many other fabulous future shows, visit

Debra Yergen
Debra Yergen

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