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Cyndi Lauper and Harvey Fierstein on Their Hit Musical "Kinky Boots"

The 2013 Tony Award winner for Best Musical comes to San Francisco this holiday season.

The hit Broadway musical “Kinky Boots” steps out in San Francisco this month. Winner of the 2013 Tony Award for Best Musical and based on real events, the inspiring show tells the story of Lola, a fabulous drag entertainer who helps a shoe factory owner, Charlie, save his floundering family business by producing sturdy stiletto boots for transvestites. We talked to the duo who masterminded the successful production: pop-legend Cyndi Lauper, composer of the Tony Award-winning score, and actor and playwright Harvey Fierstein, author of the book. Dec. 2-28. Tickets $75-$250. Orpheum Theatre, 1192 Market St., San Francisco

How is writing a Broadway show different from writing a pop music album?

Cyndi Lauper: In the pop world, there are plenty of rules, and you have to always adhere to them. In the Broadway world, which I just know from working with Harvey and [director] Jerry [Mitchell], all I got back was ‘there are no rules.’ And all of a sudden all of the gatekeepers that I’d met in my life were not there any more, and I could just write and do any kind of cuckoo experimentation I wanted. I was excited to be able to work like that.

 

"Kinky Boots" on stage
"Kinky Boots" on stage (©Matthew Murphy)

As a pop star who typically writes from personal experience, how did you approach composing songs for different characters?

Cyndi Lauper: The deeper you go and the more real you are, the more real it is for the listener because you’re writing about human experiences. That wasn’t a stretch. I saw an opportunity to write all different sounds for each character. They could each have a different jam. What was a stretch for me was how I was going to sneak in exposition without you noticing. I tried to make catchy choruses, because if you’re going to tell the story, you’ve got to be really tricky.

Harvey Fierstein: Most composers want the score to be their statement, and Cyndi never had that. Her ego never got in the way of the show. It was always about the character and telling the story. That generosity is what will make her a Broadway writer that we will hear a lot more from and will always be surprised by.

Does the show have a message?

Harvey Fierstein: The show’s about healing yourself, healing that hole in yourself that’s been left by a parent’s disapproval.

Cyndi Lauper: Daddy issues.

Harvey Fierstein: One father wanted his son to go to the factory and keep making shoes. The son didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life, but he didn’t want to do that. The other father was a boxer and wanted his son to be a boxer, but he ended up being a transvestite entertainer.

Have you followed the reviews?

Harvey Fierstein: I don’t read reviews. As I always say, if it’s fabulous, it’s going to be in front of the theater. If it’s terrible, your friends will call you and read it to you. [Laughs] They’ll put it up on your Facebook page.

 

Kinky Boots on stage
(©Matthew Murphy)

How did it feel to be the first solo woman to win the Tony for Best Original Score?

Cyndi Lauper: That was an honor, but I know that you have to win Best Musical to have it live on, and that’s what I was worried about.

How do you feel about bringing the show to San Francisco?

Cyndi Lauper: I played a lot of the late-night gay clubs here. To build Lola’s voice, I started with Sylvester, who to me was one of the great singers and dance artists out of San Francisco. As someone who’s always loved dance music, of course, I’m going to go there. Especially his song ‘Stars’—to me that was so inspiring. So this town is very much tied to Lola for me.

Harvey Fierstein: We really are excited to have the show here, and at the holiday season too.

Cyndi Lauper: It’s happy. It makes people happy. The theme of the family is also very Christmas.