Kinky Boots: Peek Inside Broadway’s Most Fabulous Drag Musical

“Kinky Boots” celebrates its fifth smash year on Broadway.

Based on the true story and 2005 indie film of the same name, “Kinky Boots” the Broadway musical follows young Brit Charlie Price, who abandons his family’s shoe factory to live with his girlfriend in London. 

After the unexpected death of his father, Charlie returns to the struggling factory and finds it’s up to him to keep the business alive. Enter Lola, a fabulous drag queen, who gives Charlie the idea to create ladies’ shoes for men. Soon, the factory is turning out “kinky boots” under the supervision of Charlie and Lola; these two extremely different men discover that they may not be so different after all and become real friends.

A Quick History of the Show

The creative team consisting of Cyndi Lauper (music/lyrics), Harvey Fierstein (book), and Jerry Mitchell (director/choreographer) assembled in 2009 to write and workshop for three years before its premiere at the Bank of America Theater in Chicago in 2012. “Kinky Boots” made its Broadway debut at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre on April 4th, 2013, starring Stark Sands as Charlie and Billy Porter as Lola. 

The creative trio was diligent in the retelling of this inspiring story. Lauper wrote three versions of the song “Land of Lola” before it was added to the show as one of 16 original songs Lauper composed for the musical. In Harvey Fierstein’s first draft of the finale—which Jerry Mitchell just recently found in his home—he didn't include any music or dialogue: simply a paragraph of detailed stage directions. 

The evolution of this wildly successful piece is nothing short of spectacular. The production earned a season-high 13 Tony nominations and six wins, including Best Musical and Best Score for Lauper in her first outing as a Broadway songwriter, making her the first woman to win alone in the category. The musical's cast album premiered at No. 1 on the Billboard Cast Albums chart and No. 51 on the Billboard 200 chart. 

“Kinky Boots” has been a popular success from the beginning and is celebrating its fifth smash year on Broadway. To commemorate the occasion, original cast members Billy Porter, a Tony Award winner,  and Stark Sands, a Tony nominee, will return to the production Sep. 26th for a limited engagement through Jan. 7, 2018. 

“It’s such an amazing show. I’ve worked on a lot of shows but the message [of “Kinky Boots”] not only permeates the audience but also the cast and crew,” said Jerry Mitchell, Tony Award winner for Best Choreography: Kinky Boots. “This is a time where we need to embrace everyone; this show has that message and people respond to it.”

Billy Porter as Lola in “Kinky Boots”

Go Behind The Scenes

“I know drag. I can do drag in my sleep. What I really wanted to understand is what happens in a shoe factory—how a shoe is made,” said Mitchell. He decided to take a trip to Northampton, England—the location of the story—to get a sense of the craftsmanship. 

“It’s important for them [the actors] to look like they’re working,” said Mitchell, who took thousands of pictures and videos while visiting the last six to twelve shoe factories from the hundreds that were once in existence. It was here Mitchell discovered that there were no treadmills or conveyor belts in these factories.  Every shoe was delivered to the next station by hand.

The treadmills Harvey Fierstein envisioned for the “Everybody Say Yeah!” number were a completely theatrical idea; an idea that would take six months to develop and choreograph.

“I almost killed myself falling off those treadmills,” says Mitchell through laughter. “I fell off that thing so many times I added bars that eventually became part of the choreography.”

The treadmills are also controlled entirely by the actors onstage. The company spent months learning different permutations of choreography in the event something goes wrong with the treadmills mid-show.  

Mitchell remembers another pivotal moment when he knew that “Kinky Boots” was going to be something momentous.

“It was the last reading of our third presentation and I asked Danny Sherman—Daniel Stewart Sherman currently playing the role of Don—to wear my size 13 'kinky boots' prototype for the first time. He could barely walk a step! But when he walked out in those boots in the finale, it was like someone had lit a match in the rehearsal room. People started screaming and cheering. That’s when I knew we had something truly special.”

“Kinky Boots” has been seen by 5 million people worldwide and continues to challenge audiences to “stand for love.” This dazzling and uplifting show makes you laugh, cry and cheer for its lovable characters. Its powerful story of friendship and message of embracing yourself as well as others rings true now more than ever.