Lewiston native among star's in 'Hairspray'

Lewiston native Natalie Slipko, shown here in dress rehearsals, plays Velma Von Tussle in "Hairspray," which opens tonight in the Kavinoky Theatre in Buffalo.

A local actress who followed her dreams is much like the main character in the musical "Hairspray," which will open Friday with her in one of the lead roles. 

Natalie Slipko, a tap and musical theater dance teacher at Niagara University, spent 20 years in New York City chasing her dreams. After she graduated with honors from Lewiston-Porter High School and Niagara University and obtained a Masters of Fine Arts in Bowling Green, she thought she might go into teaching but she wanted to perform.

 "I was more than ready to go to New York City and really pursue my passion," she said recently. "It was really the best thing I ever did for myself."

Within six months of her arrival, she was cast in a national tour of a tap musical, "42nd Street," which coincidentally was the first musical she ever saw as a kid at Shea's Buffalo and featured tap, her favorite form of dance.

She was understudy to one of the leads, a character named Anytime Annie, but never had the opportunity to step up until the show came to Buffalo and she got the call that she was going to be playing the role that night while she was visiting her family in Lewiston. 

"Fortunately after a huge prayer ... and having an incredibly supportive cast, it went off well," she said.

While living in New York, Slipko performed on stage and screen, taking a role on a soap opera, "As the World Turns," and even working in front of the cameras at QVC and the Home Shopping Network. She danced in the "Best Little Whorehouse in Texas," starring Sally Struthers. She even got a role on "Saturday Night Live," as a dancing referee during a skit with that night's host, Antonio Banderas. 

While in New York, she also came home to perform at Artpark. "When I was living in New York, they cast me at Artpark in 'Singing in the Rain,' as Lena Lamont. "That was a lot of fun," she said.

What brought her home to stay? Her mom Elaine and her dad, Jerry, and the rest of her family. When her dad passed away six years ago, she started thinking about moving home. "I know I needed a change. So, I thought, 'I'm going to see,' and I've been pleasantly surprised," she said. "I'm continuing with my passion and teaching."

Now that she is teaching dance at NU, she's also doing the choreography for the spring musicals. She did "Chicago" last year and this spring, she be choreographing "Pippin."

She is also representing Spanx on the Shopping Channel in Canada and performs in her own cabaret act. And she's acting in shows like "Hairspray" which opens tonight at the Kavinoky Theatre, a professional theater on the Campus of D'Youville College, on the Campus of D'Youville College at 320 Porter in Buffalo, with her in the juicy role of the villianess, Velma Von Tussle.

The play takes place in 1962 Baltimore where plus-sized teenager Tracy Turnblad has one dream: to dance on The Corny Collins Show. When the African-American students teach her some of their dance moves, Tracy transforms into a star, using her newfound fame to advocate for racial integration on the TV show. This hit musical’s beautiful message of acceptance and progress teaches us all to look past the color of one’s skin and fight for the equal rights of every human being.

Performances for this five week engagement running through Oct. 6, will take place at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30 p.m., 3:30 and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. The gala opening night performance Friday includes a catered 40th anniversary reception with the cast following the performance. Tickets are $45 with discounts available to seniors, students, military, and groups.

For tickets, call 829-7668 or visit kavinokytheatre.com.

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