When Harvey Fierstein and Cyndi Lauper’s adaptation of Kinky Boots finally debuted on Broadway in the spring of 2013, it quickly became an audience favorite.

Kinky Boots
Feb 10–22.
$29.50–113.50.
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Five years ago, Harvey Fierstein and Cyndi Lauper were working together on Kinky Boots, their musical-in-progress, when they came to a creative impasse. At issue was Fierstein’s decision to add spoken dialogue to one of the original songs Lauper had written for the show. “She called me up freaking out. She was like, ‘What are you doing? You can’t stop the song in the middle to talk! Rodgers and Hammerstein never did that!’” 

Fierstein, a Broadway veteran who won the first two of his five Tony Awards in 1982 for Torch Song Trilogy, and another one a year later for the musical La Cage aux Folles, for which he contributed the book, tried to explain the facts of life to Lauper, the pop star with almost no prior theatrical experience. First of all, he said calmly, Rodgers and Hammerstein did do that. We just don’t notice it because the dialogue fits so seamlessly into the song. Second of all, unlike the world of pop music, where the “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” chanteuse was accustomed to writing and arranging her own songs, theater is all about give and take. “There’s nothing more collaborative on this planet than doing a musical,” Fierstein observed. “All the pieces have to fit together.”

What brought Fierstein and Lauper together was a 2005 film, based on a true story, about a British shoe factory owner who saves his business by partnering with a cross-dresser to design custom footwear for drag queens—the titular kinky boots. It’s a story about two very different men—a straitlaced businessman and a free-spirited transvestite—who make common cause to save the shoe factory, defying their families in the process. Broadway producer Daryl Roth saw the movie at the Sundance Film Festival, acquired the rights to adapt it into a musical, and brought Fierstein and Lauper aboard.

When Kinky Boots finally debuted on Broadway in the spring of 2013, it quickly became an audience favorite, eventually winning the Tony for Best Musical in an upset (the smart money was on Matilda), with Lauper winning Best Score. Last year saw the launch of a national touring company, which comes to TUTS this month. Fierstein believes that the musical’s popularity stems from its subject matter, especially its story of two men coping with difficult fathers. 

“It’s about healing yourself,” he said. “It’s about the disappointment you feel you were to your parents. Yes, Cyndi’s written a lot of music, and it’s all fun, and I’ve thrown a lot of jokes in, but something happens to the audience on this other level. They really relate to these characters. There’s this warmth that goes through the audience, and it becomes this absolute celebration of life.”

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