Alum Nick Cortazzo lands on Broadway tour for ‘Hairspray’

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Photo courtesy Nick Cortazzo

Just one year after graduating college, Baldwin alum Nick Cortazzo is performing in a Broadway touring production of `Hairspray.’

Baldwin alum Nick Cortazzo always knew that he would be in a Broadway production. He just didn’t know his time to shine in the spotlight would come about so abruptly.

“The process of getting here happened very quickly,” Cortazzo, a Class of 2017 grad, said. “I woke up to a text from my agents on March 16 and they told me to get down to Times Square to do a quick rehearsal.”

Cortazzo was the only one auditioning at the rehearsal, which was for a Broadway touring production of Hairspray. At the audition, he learned dance combinations, filmed them, and sent the videos to the production’s creative team.

“At 6 p.m. my agents called … and told me the creative team approved my tape and that I was starting rehearsals the next day,” Cortazzo said. He then rehearsed in New York for four days with the tour’s associate choreographer.

“I then flew to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to meet up with the rest of the cast,” Cortazzo said.

When he was little, he would put on performances at his great-grandmother’s house when she babysat him.”

— Laurie Cortazzo

Cortazzo is one of six “swings” touring with the cast, which is the term for understudies who prepare to fill in for multiple ensemble parts. But he is also the understudy for one of the main characters, Corny Collins.

Understudies always have to be ready, he said.

“I’ve gone on just under 20 times in the last two months,” Cortazzo said.

Cortazzo’s favorite character to play is an ensemble member, Fender.

“I have done it the most, so I feel most comfortable in that role,” Cortazzo said.

“I am so grateful for this opportunity. It has been fast and furious in the best way,” he said. “I love the group of people that I am with and I am getting to travel the country, which has been awesome.”

Cortazzo got an early start in performing. His mother, Laurie Cortazzo, said he would put on home performances that eventually eventually evolved into performing in school plays.

“When he was little, he would put on performances at his great-grandmother’s house when she babysat him,” she said. “In sixth grade, he came home and said he was trying out for the musical Alice in Wonderland Jr. He was cast as the Mad Hatter, and did a wonderful job.”

Cortazzo’s mom never doubted him, even when he was just starting to perform at Pittsburgh Musical Theater at a young age.

“As his mother, watching his talents grow through hard work, there was not a doubt in my mind that he would ‘make it.’ He knows what he wants and will work hard for it,” she said.

When he got to Baldwin High School, Cortazzo was a standout musical talent.

Baldwin choir teacher Kris Tranter, who taught Cortazzo for all four years of high school, always expected big things from him.

“We all knew that he was going to make it. It was just a matter of time,” Tranter said. “Nick Cortazzo is one of those students who was born to be on stage.”

Stage Crew sponsor Beth Depetro agreed.

“It fills my heart to see him succeed because he’s one of those who has worked so hard,” Depetro said. “I am so happy for him.”

Tranter praised Cortazzo’s role in the Baldwin choir.

“He goes down as one of the top vocalists in choir history. He always had a great character and was certainly a top talent,” he said.

After graduating from high school, Cortazzo was a musical theater major at Baldwin Wallace University, near Cleveland, graduating in 2021. He is now based out of New York.

As for the future, Cortazzo first will be coming back to Baldwin to offer a workshop on theater arts and musical theater in the auditorium from 3 to 4:30 p.m. on Thursday.

Then it will be right back to his growing career. Cortazzo’s main goal is to perform on Broadway, and he hopes to one day become a director or choreographer.

“I want to continue performing to make connections so that I can eventually switch over and become a director and choreographer,” Cortazzo said. “I’ve gotten to dabble doing that, but I want to dig in deeper to the creative side of theater.”