Friday, October 03, 2014

Coming Up: "Kinky Boots!" Spotlight Night whets the appetite at 5th Avenue

Lindsay Nicole Chambers and Steven Booth in Kinky Boots (MatthewMurphy)

Kinky Boots
October 7-26, 2014

The 5th Avenue Theatre has whet the appetites of thousands of attendees already with their Spotlight Night focused on Kinky Boots. Executive producer and artistic director David Armstrong moderated the evening, giving a taste of what is in store by introducing two of the stars of the show and explaining the musical’s history and development.

But first, Armstrong introduced some performances from developing musicals from the 5th’s robust New Works program. Their redoubled efforts began in 2012 with the appointment of resident music supervisor Ian Eisendrath being named the Alhadeff Family Director of New Works.

Eisendrath, along with producing artistic director Bill Berry, introduced Beautiful Poison, written by Valerie Vigoda and Brendan Milburn and Duane Poole. It was commissioned by the 5th and sounds a bit like The Secret Garden for grownups. It’s based on the Nathaniel Hawthorne story "Rappaccini's Daughter."

A musician meets a mysterious woman confined by her father inside the walls of his private, exotic garden of deadly plants. Throw in a bit of Little Shop of Horrors, I guess. The musician tries to free her from a family curse that makes her a walking poison. Tanesha Ross sang a solo.

Another musical, Come From Away, is based on a true story, but little known, of 30 planes grounded in Newfoundland when all flights were grounded due to the 9/11 attack. Richard Peacock, Saxton Jay Johnson, Antonia Darlene, Kirsten deLohr Helland, Richard Gray and Frederick Hagreen sang a boisterous selection, I Am An Islander.

The third musical showcased was Cry To Heaven, based on Anne Rice’s novel. Anne Eisendrath sang a solo from that show. 

And the fourth musical, Jasper in Deadland, was produced this year in New York, off Broadway, directed by local bi-coastal guy Brandon Ivie. Ryan Scott Oliver will do further development with support from the 5th. Performing Today is a Day for Snow were Richard Peacock, Kirsten deLohr Helland, Frederick Hagreen, Antonia Darlene and Saxton Jay Johnson.

Then Armstrong focused on Kinky Boots. He explained that the story came from a small item in the British press about a real shoe factory that really was going out of business until a drag performer asked if they could make specialty shoes for performers. Creating the shoe line Divine Footwear, this change of product did save the company for at least a time.

BBC producers picked up the item and a film company created a script, changing a few facts and adding a few characters, in particular the character of Lola, a drag queen hired to hawk the shoes. The movie Kinky Boots went to the 2006 Sundance Festival.

Here in the U.S., producer Hal Luftig and another producer felt like it could make a feel-good musical and knew that Jerry Mitchell, legendary director, should direct. Jerry suggested Harvey Fierstein for the book and Harvey asked legendary pop song writer Cyndi Lauper if she wanted to try writing music for the Broadway stage.

Armstrong introduced Tom and Connie Walsh. They are local 5th Avenue donors and supporters who decided to invest in a Broadway musical. Kinky Boots was their first ever such investment, and low and behold! They hit the jackpot: it was nominated for 13 Tony Awards and won SIX! They went to New York, attended the Tonys and went up on stage with the other producers when it won Best New Musical!

They brought some actual Tony awards with them and told about all the excitement they experienced. They realize how lucky they are, especially after meeting some of the investors who had been investing in musicals for years. They knew that most lose their money and rarely is a musical financially successful enough to return the investment.

They explained that only producers who invested a certain minimum (different for every show) could be “over the title” with their names in print. Any other investors who invest less are never even named. For Kinky Boots, the minimum was $250,000 to raise $13.9 million for the Broadway show. (The tour is costing $4.9 million to mount.) The Walshs are getting asked for money a lot more, these days!

Finally, Armstrong brought on two of the stars of the tour: Steven Booth who plays Charlie Price, the factory owner, and Lindsay Nicole Chambers who plays Lauren, the woman in the shop who falls in love with Charlie, even though Charlie has a snooty girlfriend. They talked about their excitement in being part of the tour, how great the audience reception was in the first tour stop, Las Vegas, and doing roles that have been originated by others on Broadway.

Lindsay said that Annaleigh Ashford originated the role of Lauren on Broadway and won the Tony. Lindsay is a friend of hers and described the pressure to do the role similarly, but expressed the idea that everyone on the tour has to make each role her/his own. “Everyone is a little different than the original.” She believes those casting the show chose people who would be a bit different and make it uniquely theirs.

Steven explained that the word “kinky” means something more like “fun, fantastic” in Britain rather than what it means here, and that it is truly a family show for ages 10 and up.

Lindsay performed History of Wrong Guys and Steven performed Soul of a Man. They were the perfect enticement to come see the show. They were great singers with engaging and attractive personas.


The run of this show is only three weeks long. You are encouraged to get your tickets NOW if you want good seats at regular prices. Scalpers will be at work raising prices every day now.