Monday, April 13, 2015

Broadway Buzz: Assembling a Dream Team for Kinky Boots

 

Kinky Boots, the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical, was created by a dream team of talented and original artists; pop icon Cyndi Lauper, who won a Tony for her infectious score, four-time Tony-winning librettist Harvey Fierstein, and director/choreographer Jerry Mitchell, who also took home a Tony for his dances. “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,” says Lauper.  “Harvey is such a good storyteller and so is Jerry.  They have a lot of heart and I feel very blessed to be among them.”

Based on an independent film inspired by true events, Kinky Boots tells the story of Charlie, the owner of a failing English shoe factory, teaming up with Lola, a drag artist, to serve a niche market – making sturdy boots for cross-dressers.  But a successful Broadway show
and, make no mistake, Kinky Boots is a huge hit is anything but a niche market – it needs to speak to a wide and diverse audience.  Jerry Mitchell says he knew the musical would speak to a lot of people, the moment he watched the film. “I got very emotionally caught up in the story of the fathers and the sons,” he says.  “And I thought, 'well that to me is the nucleus of something really strong,' because it’s a universal idea for us: how do we measure up in our fathers’ eyes?” 

That’s certainly the way producer Daryl Roth felt when she first saw the film at Sundance in 2006.  Within a year, she had optioned the musical rights and brought producer Hal Luftig on board. The two enlisted not only Mitchell, but playwright Harvey Fierstein, who says he was attracted to the intimate story at the center; the “bromance” between Charlie and Lola, a.k.a. Simon. “The real love story here is these two gentlemen who become friends,” says Fierstein. "And I thought it was a good opportunity to do this realistically.”  He was also attracted to the theme of self-acceptance, which translates not just to the two lead characters, but all the workers in the factory:  “It’s the human stories; that’s what theater’s for.”

Fierstein called Lauper, who he had known socially.  She was drawn to the project, as well: “It’s a story about an outsider.”   Lauper enthusiastically signed on and she, Fierstein and Mitchell began a four-and-a-half year creative odyssey to translate Kinky Boots to the stage. “I don’t keep track,” explains Mitchell. “Time to me is not the point.  Getting it right is the point.” 

Cyndi Lauper, who grew up listening to Rodgers + Hammerstein cast albums, took to writing for characters and dramatic situations, like a duck to water. “Everybody asks the question about pop songs and theater songs,” she says. “I just think that, in some ways, they’re very similar; and in other ways, they’re not.  You need to be economical; you have to say something simply.  And you have to have your story – a beginning, middle and end – because if the song goes nowhere, well, what are you talking about?”

Harvey Fierstein, a veteran of several musicals, including the smash hit La Cage aux Folles, gave Lauper an education in writing for the theater. “Her lessons were a lot of fun for me,” he says, “frustrating sometimes, but fun, on the other hand.”  In particular, he showed Lauper how to weave music and dialogue effectively, something she resisted at first.  Fierstein told her, “when it’s done right, you will never notice, but the show must move on.”  A perfect example is the elaborate and catchy opening sequence, “The Most Beautiful Thing in the World,” which they crafted with Jerry Mitchell.  Fierstein explains, “that tells the story of all the characters, in relationship to shoes.  Everyone in that opening number is defined by a pair of shoes and you know who they are.”

Although the show is mostly set in the workaday world of a shoe factory, the dream team wanted to create a sense of joy and uplift for the audience, in the way only a Broadway musical can do.  The first act finale, “Everybody Say Yeah,” is an explosion of energy.  Mitchell has the cast dancing on moving conveyor belts, which had been used to deliver shoes earlier in the musical.  “We had so much fun creating that number,” exclaims Mitchell, “because it is a celebration of making the first pair of kinky boots and everyone in the factory gets involved.” 

And the show’s final numbers, “Raise You Up/ Just Be” literally does that to the audience every night. “They’re standing up, cheering, dancing and singing,” says Jerry Mitchell. “And they don’t want to leave the theater!  That’s sort of a magical moment.  And then, when they do walk out of the theater, you know, they’re all abuzz.  That’s the kind of joy that is rare in a musical.”  


See the joyous musical born out of the famous collaboration live on stage May 19-24. Find more information and ticket details here.

No comments:

Post a Comment