Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2014 | 10 p.m.
The national-tour premiere of “Kinky Boots” on Thursday night is a remarkable and major achievement for our two-year-young Smith Center for the Performing Arts, and it gives Broadway’s seal of approval to our upstart appearance in America’s theatrical industry. Everybody will be wearing thigh-high, sparkling and sequined high-heeled boots!
The hit musical, which earned 13 Tony Award nominations and won six in 2013, including Best Musical, Best Choreography and Best Score (for Cyndi Lauper, the first woman to win the award in 67 years), features music and lyrics by pop-rocker Cyndi and the book by Harvey Fierstein, who starred here in “Hairspray” at the Luxor.
The exhilarating, heart-warming production is based on the 2005 movie and inspired by a true story of how a struggling, straitlaced owner of a British shoe factory partnered with a drag queen to save the business by producing custom footwear for drag queens and kings instead of the normal, staid men’s dress shoes.
In that process, the duo played here by Steven Booth, a former UNLV student, as the factory owner and Kyle Taylor Parker from the original Broadway company as Lola the drag queen discover that they aren’t so different after all. Here’s a YouTube commercial for the Broadway production, which celebrated its 500th performance in June.
The musical’s cast album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Cast Albums Chart and No. 51 on the Billboard 200 chart. Harvey has won four Tonys: acting and writing awards for “Torch Song Trilogy,” an acting Tony for “Hairspray” and one for writing the book of “La Cage Aux Folles. Cyndi has won Grammy, Emmy, Tony and many other awards.
Harvey describes the musical: “At its core, it’s about two young men who come from seemingly opposite worlds who figure out that they have a lot in common beginning with the need to stand up to their dads.”
In my phone interview, Harvey told me from his New York apartment: “Through their friendship, they find each other. There are lots of messages about acceptance. They carry wounds by not living exactly how parents see us and want us to be.
“The message is that the problem belongs to the parents and not somebody else, so it’s about letting go. In ‘Kinky Boots,’ the man expected to be a boxer winds up becoming a transvestite entertainer.
“Our musical is a fun factory with a very sincere heart. If I actually feel down on a day in Manhattan, I’ll actually go watch it to feel up — and that’s worked several times.
“It’s all been a great experience, and Cyndi is a miracle of energy and positivity, which comes through in the show. And nobody does high energy better than our choreographer and director Jerry Mitchell.”
Jerry has been involved with more than 50 Broadway, off-Broadway, West End and touring productions, including the Las Vegas production of “Peepshow” at Planet Hollywood that ran with Holly Madison from 2009-2013.
All three are here in Las Vegas this week for Thursday’s preview opening and Saturday’s official premiere. “We are all excited to spread its message across America,” Harvey continued. “Opening its national tour in Las Vegas has made it really exciting, and it’s great to grow it from where you are.
“We have a bunch of very enthusiastic, high-energy kids. One of the cast members premiering in the national tour has been with ‘Kinky Boots’ since Day 1, and another joined ‘Kinky Boots’ on the same day as his Broadway run in ‘Newsies’ ended.
“The kids in the cast have been rehearsing out there, and everybody is thrilled with how the show will look and sound. Cyndi is very particular about the sound of the show, and the Smith Center is perfect for that. I’m hearing they all look and sound fabulous, and I can’t wait to get there to watch it.
“I’m confident Las Vegas will have a great time with the show. We’re giving you the full, entire show — it’s not been cut or trimmed at all.
“I’ve been busy with my other musical ‘Newsies,’ which starts rehearsals next week on the East Coast. When it comes to the Smith Center in March, that’ll give me another excuse to visit Las Vegas. I haven’t been there since we did ‘Hairspray.’ ”
Harvey admits that he hasn’t worn a pair of the signature sparkling red boots: “They are dangerous but damn sexy. If I was a little younger, I would. If I was a little lighter, I would, but they are just too high!”
With the enthusiasm for Broadway shows touring Las Vegas, I asked Harvey how he saw the state of theater today. “It’s always shifting and changing,” he told me. “Right now we’re having a little of a silly period with whatever was a movie is becoming a show. But I’m encouraged by the new playwrights — they are young, interesting writers.
“The important fact is that last season, every single Broadway theater was booked, and most of the shows did very well. Compared to the 1980s when theaters sat empty, this is an exciting time for Broadway.
“Broadway is very much alive and well with new shows and revivals. It’s a new golden age of theater, and it’s great to share it with Las Vegas.
“You will float out of the theater after seeing ‘Kinky Boots’ — I guarantee it.”
On Thursday, we’ll have our interview with Cyndi and her behind-the-scenes backstage tour of the show right before its first curtain up.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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