Las Vegas Sun

December 22, 2014

Currently: 47° — Complete forecast | Log in | Create an account

Theater:

Preview: Behind-the-scenes of ‘Kinky Boots’ at the Smith Center

Image

Tom Donoghue / DonoghuePhotography.com

Cyndi Lauper at MGM Grand Garden Arena on Sunday, May 25, 2014, in Las Vegas.

‘Kinky Boots’

The Tony Award-winning “Kinky Boots” is at The Smith Center for the Performing Arts from Sept. 4-14, 2014, in downtown Las Vegas. Launch slideshow »

Cher and Cyndi Lauper at MGM Grand

The forever fabulous and newly 68-year-old Cher at MGM Grand Garden Arena on Sunday, May 25, 2014, in Las Vegas. Launch slideshow »

With a dream team of entertainment talent behind the hit musical “Kinky Boots” opening tonight at the Smith Center for the Performing Arts ahead of its Saturday premiere, it’s like a fine bottle of champagne popping open with vibrant bubbles and excitement.

The music of Cyndi Lauper, book by Harvey Fierstein and choreography by director Jerry Mitchell ensures the show’s continuing Broadway and Tony Awards success story (all three are Tony winners). It took four years to develop the musical, and now it sets off on a yearlong national tour from right here in Las Vegas, a milestone first for our Smith Center.

Harvey has already told me that his Las Vegas cast led by former UNLV student Steven Booth, who starred in “Avenue Q” at the Wynn, and Kyle Taylor Parker are a “bunch of very enthusiastic, high-energy kids looking and sounding fabulous.”

He added: “Opening its national tour in Las Vegas has made it really exciting. It’s great to grow it and spread its message across America from Las Vegas.”

However, it’s the often-unsung heroes behind-the-scenes who solidify a story’s brilliant translation into musical theater. In “Kinky Boots,” it is costume and footwear designer Gregg Barnes and set designer David Rockwell who have helped it become a sold-out Broadway phenomenon.

For such a joyous show, it’s surprising that it’s based in an olden-days grimy factory, but the conveyor belts producing men’s shoes become dancer treadmills for an unbelievable production number for the raucous first-act finale “Everybody Say Yeah.”

David ensured a romantic look with colors to turn it into an optimistic place to work. Tougher than treadmills, which took nine months to work properly, were the six-inch stiletto heels on those trademark thigh-high boots.

“They had to be durable to support the 6-foot-tall dancers doing elaborate routines — slam splits, quick changes, being carted up and down stairs in baskets — yet look brand new every night surviving eight shows a week,” said Gregg. “We had to get the boots right. It took months of experimentation and broken heels. In our Broadway run of a year, we barely had to replace any!”

Six trucks containing the sets, props, lighting and wardrobe for cast and crew have made the cross-country journey to Las Vegas.

“We always say that the tour looks better than the original Broadway production.” Gregg added. “I don’t know if that’s true, but you learn so much. We’ve redesigned and improved many of the outfits. David has made the sets lighter but maintained the real quality.”

It’s amazing how David changes the Northern England factory into a London nightclub using LED lights. More extraordinary are the three drapes that fly in to cover the dismal factory wall into an extravagant bubble-light wall.

Said David: “I love the beginning of ‘Everybody Say Yeah’ when we first see the boots come out on the runway because it goes from the outside of the factory, where three quarters of the stage is closed off, and as it opens up, you see the cast around the runway and the boot comes down, and they move into the production number.”

We’ll be back later with our interview with Cyndi, who created the music and lyrics for “Kinky Boots,” which won her a Tony — the first for a woman in the 67 years of the theater awards. “It almost seems like a perfect storm, Harvey, Jerry and me coming together. They are brilliant,” she said. “I’m honored to be working with them. I’m just blessed and think I’m so lucky to be among them.

“The story is about an outsider and how two people completely different can overcome their differences for the greater good. One minute you’re bawling your eyes out, and the next minute it’s hilarious. I tried really hard to write songs that could live outside the theater, songs that people would want to listen to at home after leaving the theater or without even seeing the show.”

The foursome summed up “Kinky Boots”:

“It’s an amazing show with great heart that will lift you up,” said Emmy, Grammy and Tony winner Cyndi, who recently performed here with Cher at MGM Grand Garden Arena.

“It has an elevation of joy, and ‘I’m Not My Father’s Son’ is one of the most beautiful moments ever seen in a Broadway musical. Audiences stand up, cheer, dance and sing and don’t want to leave. That’s a joy that’s rare in a musical,” said Jerry, who brought “Peepshow” to life here at Planet Hollywood from 2009-2013.

“I never tire of experiencing the enthusiasm audiences have shown. You can feel that joyous experience in the theater,” said David, who has designed many of Wolfgang Puck’s Las Vegas restaurants.

Harvey, who starred in “Hairspray” at the Luxor several years ago, summed up: “If you’re having a down day, this is the musical to lift you right up. You will float out of the theater after seeing Kinky Boots — I guarantee it.”

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.

Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.

Follow Vegas DeLuxe on Twitter at Twitter.com/vegasdeluxe.

Follow Sun A&E Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.

Join the Discussion:

Check this out for a full explanation of our conversion to the LiveFyre commenting system and instructions on how to sign up for an account.

Full comments policy