When she was in sixth grade, Niki Metcalf sang “Good Morning Baltimore” from “Hairspray” in her school talent show. Now, 15 years later, she is performing that very song — as well as others from the popular musical and movie — before thousands of people every night in the national tour of “Hairspray,” which runs at the Citizens Bank Opera House Oct. 18-30. “It really is a full-circle moment,” Metcalf, 26, said in a recent phone call from Reno, Nev., where she was performing “Hairspray,” which is set in Baltimore in 1962. The show debuted on Broadway in 2002 (nabbing eight Tony Awards) and centers around a plus-size teenager, Tracy Turnblad, who loves dancing and won’t give up on her dream to pursue stardom – and rally against segregation — on a local TV dance show. “I think there’s something about `Hairspray’ for everybody. The show is 20 years old this year but I think its messages of respect for one another and following your dreams and bringing people together — bringing communities together — is so important,” Metcalf said. “It’s just as vital of a message as it was 20 years ago.” The Saugerties, N.Y., native is no stranger to Boston, since her younger sister, Alexis, attended Emerson College and she visited her frequently. “I’m so excited that we have two weeks in Boston,” she said. “My favorite season is the fall, and what a great place to enjoy it. We’re going to get a group together to go to Salem for the day, and we’ll definitely go to Quincy Market. I can’t wait.” We caught up with Metcalf, who (when not on tour) lives at home with her mom, sister, and two Yorkies — Bella and Bentley — to talk about all things travel.
Favorite vacation destination? Disney World. And because of our tour route this year, I’ll be able to visit Disneyland — for the very first time — in a few months.
Favorite food or drink while vacationing? Iced coffee. I love finding little cafés in each place we travel to grab my favorite drink – usually a dirty chai or a lavender latte with oat milk if I can find it.
Where would you like to travel to but haven’t? I would love to visit more places out of the country. Italy has always been a big dream for me. I’d also love to revisit Ireland. I went on a high school trip to Ireland, England, and France, and there was something about Ireland . . . the people were so friendly and the atmosphere just felt like home.
One item you can’t leave home without when traveling? My favorite denim jacket. As my cast members can attest, you can see me in it basically every day.
Aisle or window? Window for sure. I love looking out and seeing the stunning views, the clouds, and especially if we’re flying during a sunset.
Favorite childhood travel memory? I’ve been on so many fun vacations with my mom and sister, but we try every year to spend some time in Newport, R.I., together, and that time together is so special to us. I’d say that for sure.
Guilty pleasure when traveling? I would have to say spending too much money in all of the cute local shops. I can always find something that I absolutely need — when I really should be saving.
Best travel tip? Don’t just do the normal touristy spots. Find the local cafe, walk around, and get outside. Or in general, do the things that make you happy, not just [visit] the generalized “best spots.” There’s always so much more to explore than the obvious Google-search answers you find.