Singer/actress Nikki Blonsky truly embodies that notion of overnight success. Plucked from obscurity at age 17, then-newcomer Blonsky beat out hundreds of young girls from a nationwide open casting call to land the coveted lead role in the big-screen adaptation of the hit Broadway musical HAIRSPRAY.
Acting much like a seasoned pro alongside showbiz veterans John Travolta, Christopher Walken, and Michelle Pfeiffer, she won raves for playing the pleasantly plump heroine Tracy Turnblad, a young high-schooler in the 60's with a penchant for high hair, risque dance moves, and racial integration. The Long Island native similarly excelled in the same role that also made stars out of Marissa Jaret Winokur (Tony winner from the original Broadway cast) and Ricki Lake (Tracy in the original 1988 John Waters cult film that inspired the stage musical).
She followed up HAIRSPRAY with noteworthy turns in the Lifetime telefilm "Queen Sized," and last year starred in the critically-acclaimed (but sadly, short-lived) ABC Family original series Huge. This weekend, though, Blonsky is slipping back into familiar territory as she joins MEN ALIVE - The Orange County Gay Men's Chorus for their 10th Anniversary Concert "GREASY HAIRSPRAY" at the Irvine Barclay Theatre on July 15 and 16.
Under the direction of founder and artistic director Rich Cook, Blonsky will once again sing and dance as Tracy Turnblad, performing live many of the memorable tunes from HAIRSPRAY alongside the colorfully-costumed choristers. The two-day, three-show concert event—which celebrates two hit Broadway shows, GREASE and HAIRSPRAY—marks the grand finalé to Men Alive's 10th Season.
With just days until opening night, Blonsky took a break from rehearsing in New York to chat briefly with BroadwayWorld's Michael Lawrence Quintos about her star-making role in the movie musical, her early childhood influences, and her elation about collaborating with the guys of Men Alive here in Orange County, California.
BWW: Hi, Nikki! First, let me say how much I loved you in the movie HAIRSPRAY and how much I miss your TV series HUGE!
Nikki: Oh, thank you! I love BroadwayWorld.com! You guys have always been so kind and so nice to me, so I love all of you over there!
Oh, great to hear! Well, I should say, too—in the spirit of full disclosure—that I am not only a writer/critic for BWW, but I am also a singer in Men Alive! So, I can tell you first-hand that everyone in the chorus is super excited about you joining us for our 10th Anniversary show!
Oh, yay! That means I get to meet you [in person]!
Yeah, I'm actually going to be singing right next to you as one of the "Dynamites" in the "Welcome to the 60's" number!
Oh, that's great! I was just actually rehearsing that song last night with my musical director! I'm so excited to see how everything will come together and play out because, with that song... I've never performed that song [live]. John [Travolta] and I recorded it separately. So the first time we both ever heard the finished product was when we were shooting the scene for the movie! So when I perform with Men Alive on the 15th and 16th, that will be the first time "Welcome to the 60's"—the movie version of the song—will ever be performed live!
Awesome! Glad we're first! And you have performed some of the other songs live before, right?
Oh, yeah. I've sung "Good Morning, Baltimore" about a million, bajillion times! [Laughs] I've even done it as "Good Morning, Tokyo"... "Good Morning, Rome"... every country where I premiered the movie, I tried to spice it up! [Laughs]
That's great! So are you excited about revisiting these songs again?
Yes! Honestly, they just make me happy. I mean, they bring me back to a point in my life when I was 17—I was a baby, you know? It was my first project. There were all these emotions.... I was learning all the dances... and I was discovering Tracy within myself. It was just a time of joy, discovery, love, laughter and song. I was just being 17 playing a 17-year-old! [Laughs] It was the greatest time in my life, and it's something I will remember forever. So I'm glad I get to sing these songs again! It just brings me back to that moment when I sang "Good Morning, Baltimore" on top of a garbage truck! It was just so much fun! It seems to me to be ages ago, but, really, it was only just five... six years ago!
And it's still such a fun movie to sit through! I can't tell you how many times I've found myself stopping on ABC Family whenever that movie comes on... and I own it on Blu-ray!
Yeah, I catch myself every now and then watching it too whenever it's on TV. My dad or my mom will yell out "You're on, you know?! It's on ABC Family!" or "Turn on HBO!" I always wondered why they kept yelling to me about something on TV, but I finally knew why after the fourteenth time! [Laughs] I mean, I would just watch for maybe, like, a minute just to kind of re-live the memory... but then I'll go "you know, that was a great time in my life... but now I have to switch the channel!"