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April 3, 2015

These boots are made for dancing

Footwear takes center stage in touring production of Broadway hit

It’s been my experience that there are two types of people in the world, those who love the movie Kinky Boots and those who have not seen it. The latter are horribly deprived and have yet to begin to live a full life.

The film featured a magnificent performance by Chewitel Ejiofor and was heartfelt, funny, moving and sassy. Somewhere along the way, however, someone thought that it could be made just that little bit better by turning it into a Broadway musical.

That someone was producer Daryl Roth, who along with co-producer Hal Luftig, brough on Jerry Mitchell, one of the guiding lights behind the Broadway production of La Cage Aux Folles, which he co-wrote with Harvey Fierstein.

Mitchell brought Fierstein on board to write the book, and Fierstein brought in Cyndi Lauper to write music and lyrics.

Somehow, that officially makes the production of Kinky Boots gayer than Lance Bass and Neil Patrick Harris starring in a biography of Liberace.

All right, some of you reading this are probably those poor, deprived, hopeless souls who never saw the film, so it is probably time to explain the plot, which is based on a true story.

Charlie Price is the new owner of Price & Sons Ltd, a shoe factory he has just inherited following the sudden death of his father. Unfortunately, the factory is in dire straits and Charlie, who doesn’t want to be there in the first place, is on the verge of shuttering it, putting its staff out of work. Many of them had been working for his father for decades, and he had grown up with them and their children as he would visit his dad at work.

While out drinking one night, he comes across a drag queen named Lola who is being menaced by a group of toughs. He tries to swoop in to the rescue, but is a little too tipsy and Lola winds up saving him, breaking her heel in the process. Lola suggests the factory turn to making attractive yet solidly-made shoes for women, especially those who might not have been born as women, and during the Milan Footwear Show, the factory is saved.

“When I watched the movie, I saw it was a very old fashioned movie sort of structure,” Fierstein says. “And it’s not a very big story, as you know. So, to mess too much with normal structure would be to take away from the focus of the story, which is delicate enough as it is.”

“Usually, in a musical, you open with the ‘I want song.’ You have a character that wants something. Well, we have a character that doesn’t want anything. He doesn’t know what he wants,” he continues. “And so I had to work around that and find a way for the audience to like this, for lack of a better word, schlub!”

“Because we’re all different, we brought in what we know and we all worked together to make it right - to make you laugh and cry,” Lauper says. “And Harvey is such a good storyteller and so is Jerry. One minute you’re bawling your eyes out and the next minute, it’s hilarious.”

“So I think it’s the perfect storm and I think I’m just so lucky!” she continues. “And I feel so blessed to be walked through by the Lion, the Scarecrow and the Tin Man! They have a lot of heart and they’re great storytellers and I feel very blessed to be among them.”

The musical won six Tony Awards in 2013, including Best Musical, Best Score for Lauper, Best Choreography, Best Orchestrations, Best Performance-Lead Actor in a Musical and Best Sound Design. It was nominated for an additional seven Tony Awards, and won the 2014 Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album. So you can safely assume it’s good.

Kinky Boots runs April 7 to 19 at the Palace Theater of Playhouse Square. Performances are Tuesday through Saturday at 7:30 pm, with a Saturday matinee at 1:30 pm, and Sundays at 1 pm and 6:30 pm. Tickets start at $30. For more information or to buy tickets, call 216-2416000 or go to www.playhousesquare.org.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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