Even though “Kinky Boots” doesn’t debut at Belk Theater until next week, the smash-hit Broadway musical from Jerry Mitchell, Harvey Fierstein and Cyndi Lauper has already booked its return in December.
Based on a 2005 film starring Oscar nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor (“12 Years a Slave”), “Kinky Boots” has become the little show that could. It won six Tonys and is selling out runs during its first U.S. tour, so it’s quickly booking return engagements.
Broadway crowds are notoriously picky. Actor Steven Booth, who plays the lead role of Charlie, watched one of his first shows – “Glory Days” – close after one regular performance (and 17 previews).
“You just never know what people are going to grab on to,” Booth says. But “when you see Cyndi Lauper is writing music for a new pop musical, that perks you up.”
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In “Kinky Boots,” Charlie inherits an ailing shoe factory from his father and moves home from London to try to save it – with the help of a charismatic drag queen named Lola, who designs a line of high-end, thigh-high stiletto boots for men.
“This show, the more I do it, the more I believe in it,” says Booth, who didn’t watch the movie until after he was cast. “I continue to see why it’s such a big hit. It has universal messages, themes of fathers and sons, friendships, and this big underlying theme of loving yourself and accepting others and being who you want to be.”
“These two worlds come together,” he says. “You can feel the audience coming together with us and warming up to all these characters. No matter what side you think you’re on at the beginning of the show, you find yourself rooting for everyone and rooting for people who you thought you wouldn’t root for.”
During the course of the show, Charlie does slip into those thigh-high leather boots.
“It hurt, but they’re amazing,” Booth says. “You feel like royalty because you’ve got these custom-made boots that fit every centimeter of your foot up to your thigh. It was kind of exhilarating. Six months into the show, I enjoy zipping those things up. It’s like putting on a glove. They’re broken in.”
Despite his big break, the newlywed may not still be with the cast when the tour returns in December.
“It’s a part any guy my age in this business would love to play,” he says. “I’m onstage practically the entire show. It’s multilayered. I play many emotions and have this big arc. It’s not boring at all. It is like a dream role.”
But touring is tough, since his wife, Molly, is back home in New York. “It’s not ideal for the first year of marriage. We’re looking forward to being together more.”
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday; 8 p.m. Friday; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday; 1:30 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday.
WHERE: Belk Theater, 130 N. Tryon St.
DETAILS: 704-372-1000; www.blumenthalarts.org.