Kinky Boots (the musical) is the love child of Cyndi Lauper and Harvey Fierstein, and the godchild of British director Jarrod, dramatist Geoff Deane and musician Tim Firth (the trio behind the 2005 comedy-drama film that served as inspiration). Six Tony Awards and seven years later, we are lucky enough to have the touring production of Kinky Boots coming to our own State Farm Center this Sunday.  

To help get you as excited about this I am, I reached out to Chris Kane, assistant to the choreographer, to get his take on this production and the source of Kinky Boots' unique  power. 

 

Smile Politely: What inspires you most about Kinky Boots?

Chris Kane: The audience reaction and reception to the show. This show carries such an important message of acceptance and inclusion and the fact that we get to spread it all over the country, from small towns to big cities, and no matter where we are, the audience is always jumps to their feet at the end of the show, is nothing short of amazing and heartwarming. It is so inspirational to see this happen from city to city to city.

SP:  Kinky Boots has had a legendary success, first on Broadway and now as a touring production. To what do you attribute its critical success and widening appeal?

Kane: I think it is because everyone can see themselves in one or maybe a few of the characters in the show. It is very relatable and I think that resonates with audience members. It is also a show that has a lot of life and heart and I’ve heard many stories from fans of the show that it somehow had an impact on their lives after seeing the show. That and of course the boots. People go wild for the boots

SP: How does a tour production differ from a residency at a certain theatre?  What are some of the challenges of taking a fabulous show like this with its maximalist costumes, set, and chorus on the road?

Kane: Depending on the size of each venue, sometimes we have to cut set pieces from the show. However that does not take away from the performance of performers. We give the same performance in each city no matter what set pieces are cut from the show.

SP: What is the most exciting part of being part of a touring production? What's the most challenging?

Kane: This tour has taken me to places all across the country and even outside of the US. And it has all been to places I probably never would have gotten to without being on tour. So that is pretty cool. And like I said above, its always amazing to see the audience reaction no matter where we are. When we went to Asia, the audiences had the same reaction as the audiences in the US. It was so exciting to get to bring this show over there and to spread its message. Tour life is all about adapting to your surroundings. Every day is different. You can be in one state one day and another the next. And while yes that can be a bit challenging, it is also very exciting and a chance of a lifetime

After Kinky Boots premiered in 2012, (most) critics quickly realized that underneath all of its glittering surface was a story with an important message and a potentially wide reach. Here's a quick snapshot from my research.

"The theatre critic for Time Out New York called the show "the very model of a modern major musical." The Associated Press termed it "a big ol’ sweet love story about sons, the families we make and red patent leather. ... Thank goodness for Harvey Fierstein – he spins theatrical magic", but despite criticisms of the script the “perpetual cheer-churning machine” that is Kinky Boots certainly serves an important end goal; to empower not just its central characters, but the entire audience, in the spirit of acceptance. According to Julie Grossman, Kinky Boots facilitates the retraining of the eye to gender conventions and “repositions the marginalised figure as central to the spectacle of mass theatre... enacting a shift in the perspective of the viewer”. The finale “Raise You Up/Just Be” epitomises the empowerment of the individual, empowerment to “Just Be” regardless of the “oppressive gender roles directly connected to patriarchal views of legacy and inheritance” under which Charlie and Lola initially suffer."

Based on a true story, Kinky Boots tells the tale of an unlikely partnership and the journey of self acceptance and learning to accept others. This is the story we need right now.  We desperately need to sing about coming together and dance our way to common ground. I've been riding the empathy train this week at Ebertest and I'm so ready to feel Kinky Boot's'  unique brand of spectacle and deep-hearted inspiration. I'm so ready to feel that we're all better together; and even better when we're sharing a journey of acceptance and singing along to some great music. 

Broadway Series: Kinky Boots
Sunday, April 14th, 8 p.m.
State Farm Center
1800 S 1st St, Champaign
Get ticket information here

Learn more about Chris Kane and the entire Kinky Boots touring cast and creative crew here

Photo from the Broadway Series: Kinky Boots Facebook page