Thursday, April 9, 2015

Broadway Buzz: The Huge-Hearted Hit with Real-Life Inspiration

You may know that Kinky Boots is based on a 2005 film, but did you know that neither the film nor the musical would exist without an Englishman named Steve Pateman? 

Here's how Kinky Boots went from "inspired by" to "inspiring!"

Kinky Boots -- both the movie and the musical -- follows Charlie Price, an aspiring young businessman who is forced to give up his dreams of living the London city life in order to save his late father’s family business in Northern England. When Charlie suddenly inherits his father’s bankrupt Price & Sons shoe factory, he finds unexpected inspiration in the form of Lola, a fabulous entertainer in need of some sturdy stilettos. As Charlie and Lola work to turn the factory around, this unlikely pair finds that they have more in common than they ever dreamed possible… and discovers that when you change your mind about someone, you can change your whole world.

At the real-life W.J. Brooks in Northamptonshire, England, Steve Pateman was struggling to keep the family business afloat against high export costs. Steve received a call from Sue Sheppard at Lacies in Folkestone, a seller of transgender glamour wear, who told him about her trouble finding women's shoes in men's sizes. Steve began manufacturing these "kinky boots," and though his factory eventually did close, that phone call sparked an international sensation when the BBC turned Steve's story into a documentary in 1999.

While Kinky Boots reflects quite a bit of W.J. Brooks' history, the biggest addition to the tale is Lola, the drag queen who meets Charlie in a chance encounter and and turns out to be the one person who can help Charlie become the man he’s meant to be. While Lacies' Sue did point Steve in a new direction, the heart of Kinky Boots the musical is Lola and Charlie's friendship. They come together to save a business but also grow as people as they come to reconcile their personal differences and their past relationships with their fathers.

So what about the film versus the musical? Kinky Boots stays true to the movie while adding Cyndi Lauper's Tony-winning score and Harvey Fierstein's storytelling magic. The film's quieter themes of friendship and father/son relationships are brought to the forefront of the musical.

While Steve's story has been adapted in the 16 years since the documentary aired, he told the BBC in a 2013 article that "the appeal of the story has never changed."

"What people love is the warmth of the relationships in the factory, which was always a sort of family."

Read more about the true story behind Kinky Boots here

We hope you'll join us for a celebration of standing up for what you believe May 19-24, live on the Orpheum stage. For more information, visit orpheum-memphis.com/kinkyboots.

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