'Kinky Boots' Walk Cyndi Lauper To Broadway Kinky Boots, the quirky independent British film, has been turned into a splashy Broadway musical with a score by pop icon Cyndi Lauper. Reporter Jeff Lunden takes look.
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'Kinky Boots' Walk Cyndi Lauper To Broadway

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'Kinky Boots' Walk Cyndi Lauper To Broadway

'Kinky Boots' Walk Cyndi Lauper To Broadway

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Let's go to Broadway, shall we, to hear about a much anticipated premier. "Kinky Boots," a quirky independent British film, has been turned in a quirky but splashy new Broadway musical. The score is written by 80s pop icon, Cyndi Lauper.

Jeff Lunden has the story.

JEFF LUNDEN, BYLINE: If you ask Billy Porter, one of the lead actors in "Kinky Boots," what the show is about, he's got a succinct answer.

BILLY PORTER: It's about two people who have daddy issues. And one of them just happens to wear a dress.


LUNDEN: Porter would be the one that wears the dress. He plays Lola, a fabulous drag queen, who inadvertently helps save a failing shoe factory in the English Midlands. And he gets to sing fabulous songs by Cyndi Lauper.


LUNDEN: Over four years ago, Cyndi Lauper was asked by her good friend, Harvey Fierstein, if she'd like to write a musical with him. Although she'd never written one before, she was intrigued by "Kinky Boots," based on the real story of a shoe factory owner who teams up with a drag artist to create sturdy, but sexy drag boots for men. She says Harvey Fierstein was full of song titles, right from the start.

CYNDI LAUPER: Harvey called me up, he said: I want a song "Sex is in the Heel." I want a song "The Most Beautiful Thing." I want a song "Not My Father's Son." And I was like, wow.


LUNDEN: Fierstein, who also wrote the script for the musical version of "La Cage aux Folles," took Lauper under his wing - he affectionately refers to her as my daughter - and taught her about writing songs for the stage.

HARVEY FIERSTEIN: You know, her lessons were a lot of fun for me - frustrating sometimes, but fun on the other hand. Like, the first time I took a song of hers and I stopped the song and put the scene in the middle of it, and then they kept singing, and then more scene. And she said, what the hell are you doing? What are you doing to my song? Let them sing the (bleep) song.

I said it's not the way it works. You wouldn't do that to Rodgers and Hammerstein. And I said, well, you actually would, right? And I showed her, you know, some example, I said "Some Enchanted Evening," which has a scene in the middle of it. And she said, oh, I didn't notice. And I said exactly. When it's done right, you will never notice.


LUNDEN: Cyndi Lauper says she realized that writing theater songs and writing pop songs had a lot in common.

LAUPER: You need to be economical. You have to say something simply. I believe you still can have poetry. Now, Harvey believes it has to be in the most stupid, simple terms, but I think he believes in poetry.


LUNDEN: At its heart, "Kinky Boots" is a bromance between the straight-laced factory owner, Charlie, and the flamboyant drag queen, Lola. They learn to accept each other and themselves through their friendship. Stark Sands plays Charlie.

STARK SANDS: You know, it's really about these two guys who, at first glance, are completely different, but underneath have so much in common.

LUNDEN: The show's director, Jerry Mitchell, says the experiences of Charlie and Lola - while very specific - are universal.

JERRY MITCHELL: I don't think there's anyone who doesn't go through some sort of realization, in their life, as becoming an adult, how you measured up in your father's eyes, for better or for worse. And that has real resonance.

LUNDEN: Cyndi Lauper tapped into that feeling with the first act ballad, "I'm Not My Father's Son." She says she wrote it, while walking on the track in her gym one morning.

LAUPER: And I just started singing, you know (Singing) I'm not my father's son. And I thought that was so sad. And I thought (Singing) I'm not the image of what he dreamed of.


LUNDEN: Billy Porter, who as Lola gets to wear six inch heels, gorgeous frocks and dance with a chorus of drag queens, says "Kinky Boots" may surprise some people.

PORTER: It masquerades as a big, splashy Broadway musical. But, actually, it's a really small, intimate story that just happens to have these fabulous numbers.

LUNDEN: "Kinky Boots" opens at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre on Broadway tonight.

For NPR News, I'm Jeff Lunden in New York.


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