updated 11/18/2008 AT 5:00 PM ET
•originally published 11/18/2008 AT 5:10 PM ET
Marissa Jaret Winokur is headed back to Broadway’s Hairspray as the splashy musical in which she got her career start heads into its final weeks. And, this time, she’s taking her baby.
Starting Dec. 9, Winokur will reprise her starring role as the ample and eager Baltimore teen Tracy Turnblad, for which she won a 2003 Tony as best leading actress in a musical.
When I started with the show I was cancer-free, I was single, I had no kids. I was just an unemployed actress,” the former Dancing with the Stars finalist and cervical-cancer survivor, who welcomed son Zev Isaac Miller last July, tells PEOPLE.
“To go back to the show that gave me a career, gave me a life and now I can share this with my child – how do you say no? Besides, when does a 35-year-old get to play 16?”
Winokur says she couldn’t resist one last hurrah, even though initially she was terrified. (The show, which will close Jan. 4, already has its original leading actor back in place: fellow Tony winner Harvey Fierstein, who plays Tracy’s mother, Edna Turnblad.)
“The idea of going back to New York City with a newborn was ridiculously scary, and I was like, there’s no way I’m going to do it,” says Winokur. “But then there’s the idea of standing in midtown with my billboard and my son and taking a picture of that. How cool would that be?”
Preparing for the adventure has meant a lot of advance planning and a little kvetching, Winokur admits.
“It’s Zev’s first plane ride, Zev’s first Christmas, the first time I will have left the house for more than an hour with Zev,” she says, laughing. “I’m packing for us now. I’m getting one suitcase, but he’s getting three. All of his clothes are so small but he needs all of his things to make it look like our house.”
Who’s your Favorite Star Under 35? PEOPLE.com and the People’s Choice Awards are counting your votes! Click here to vote now!