It’s a show about drag queens with songs by Cyndi Lauper. That sounds like plenty of fun right there, but Rose Hemingway says there’s a lot more to “Kinky Boots” than just a good time.
“It’s joyous and fun,” Hemingway said. “You’ll laugh, you’ll cry and if you’re a little unsure about drag queens, hopefully it changes some minds.”
She plays Lauren is the U.S. tour of “Kinky Boots,” which is coming to Sarasota for a week-long run that starts Tuesday.
The story, which has at least some basis in a true story, has to do with a young man who inherits the family business, a struggling shoe manufacturing company in England. He has no interest in running a shoe company, but it’s part of his family’s legacy so he feels compelled to take on the challenge. He’s rather strait-laced, but he happens to meet a night club entertainer named Lola.
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Lola tells him about the difficulty drag queens have finding shoes, quality shoes. Together they decide to fill this void, and that turns the business around.
Lola tells the man that drag performers have a really hard time finding shoes that look fabulous and are big enough and strong enough to fit and support a man’s weight.
“Lola tells him about the difficulty drag queens have finding shoes, quality shoes, ” Hemingway said. “She convinces him that all he needs to do is to fill that niche market. Together they decide to fill that void, and that turns the business around.”
Hemingway’s character Lauren is one of the workers at the factory and becomes the love interest of the factory heir, Charlie Price.
It’s the first musical that Lauper ever wrote, and she won a Tony Award for her work. The show also won the Tony for Best Musical.
Lauper, as a performer, has done a lot of different kinds of music over the years, but in most people’s minds she’s associated with her days as a pop queen. People who are expecting that classic Lauper sound might be surprised by “Kinky Boots,” Hemingway said.
“I think the songs show a lot of different influences,” she said. “It’s not all like her stuff from the ’80s.”
Lauper might be the biggest mainstream name associated with the show, but its book writer and director/choreographer are part of musical theater royalty.
The book comes from Harvey Fierstein, who has won Tony Awards as both an actor and a writer. Among his other well-known musicals are “Newsies” and “La Cage aux Folles.”
It’s a story about acceptance, about broadening your horizons.
Jerry Mitchell is better known as a choreographer than a director, and his work has won him Tony Awards for “Kinky Boots” and “La Cage.” In 2005, his choreography garnered Tony nominations for two different shows, “La Cage” and “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.”
So there’s plenty of great music and great dance, but what makes “Kinky Boots” special is its heartening story. The working-class people in the factory aren’t happy to have Lola around at first, and Lola’s wary of them. But for the most part they end up bonding.
“It’s a story about broadening your horizons,” Hemingway said. “It’s about people who have these different attitudes who have to adapt and accept each other. And what’s nice is that sometimes that happens to the people in the audience, too.”