Fierstein, Lauper to get ‘Kinky’ on B’way
- Last Updated: 11:04 AM, July 11, 2012
- Posted: 11:05 PM, July 10, 2012
The hype — much of it generated by this very column! — is already building for “Matilda,” the London hit that will land at the Shubert Theatre in the spring.
Rave reviews, Tony Awards, nice fat profits for investors?
Well, on Broadway, as in life, only a fool is sure.
If the producers of “Matilda” scan the showbiz horizon, they’ll see in the distance, gaining speed, what could be their chief competition — “Kinky Boots,” a new musical from Cyndi Lauper and Harvey Fierstein.
The show’s been given three staged readings in the past few months, and I heard that Broadway’s three landlords — Jujamcyn, Shubert and Nederlander — all threw their hats in the ring.
“It’s a wonderful thing,” says Fierstein, “when theater owners want your show.”
It appears that Jujamcyn’s got “Kinky Boots” and will put it in the Al Hirschfeld Theatre next spring following an out-of-town tryout in Chicago in the fall. Jujamcyn’s co-producer will be Hal Luftig, who’s on a roll with the hit revival of “Evita.”
Jerry Mitchell, who did “Legally Blonde,” is directing and choreographing, and the cast includes Billy Porter (the “Angels in America” revival), Stark Sands (“Journey’s End”) and Annaleigh Ashford (“Wicked”).
The readings, says Fierstein, couldn’t have gone better.
“Jerry and I sat in the back for these presentations, and the room was packed,” he says. “It’s just a rehearsal room with neon lights, and you know they [potential investors] are there for one thing — money. We are not talking about the ideal emotional setting. But halfway through the first act, these tough men, these tough businessmen, were crying. And by Act 2, we had all the money in place. Baby, take a bow!
“My sister-in-law came up at the end of the show and said, ‘I want to put money in this.’ I said, ‘Darling, don’t you know the Mel Brooks rule — NEVER PUT YOUR OWN MONEY IN THE SHOW!’ ”
“Kinky Boots” is based on the 2005 film, itself based on a true story about a shoemaker whose company is on the verge of bankruptcy until he starts making shoes for transvestites. A sweet friendship springs up between the shoemaker, Charlie, and Simon, a transvestite whose stage name is Lola.
Fierstein’s an expert at adapting movies to the stage. He’s got a hit at the Nederlander with “Newsies,” he wrote the book for “La Cage aux Folles,” based on the French movie, and he contributed to another smash, “Hairspray.”
“The movie is charming,” Fierstein says of “Kinky Boots.”
“That was not the case with ‘Newsies,’ where we started with something awful,” he adds, laughing. “We have more freedom on ‘Kinky Boots’ because it’s not a cult film like ‘Newsies.’ And the people who loved ‘Newsies’ wanted it to stay awful!”
Fierstein delved into “Kinky Boots,” pulled it apart, changed some character motivations and gave the whole thing a meaningful thematic structure.
“There’s a huge difference between movies and theater,” he says. “Movies are about story. Theater is about ideas. You’ve got the story going, but you have to have something more to keep people in their seats for 2 1/2 hours. You have to have something bigger to say than, ‘Oh, we have a shoe factory, let’s make it a hit shoe factory!’ That ain’t really a reason to go to a musical.
“So with ‘Kinky Boots,’ I’ve amped up the story between Charlie and Simon. Both feel they are total failures to their fathers, but they become friends and help each other achieve success that even their fathers would have been proud of.”
Fierstein brought Lauper onboard, and everyone’s impressed with her score. It’s got character songs, club music, disco, ballads and her signature, get-up-and-dance numbers along the lines of “Girls Just Want To Have Fun.”
“Cyndi loves the theater,” says Fierstein. “She’s a total Rodgers & Hammerstein girl. She knows everything Bernstein ever wrote. So she decided to take the plunge, and I cannot praise her work enough.”
Fierstein and Co. are off to Chicago in September to put “Kinky Boots” on its feet.
“The show had an emotional reality at the reading, and now all I tell myself is, ‘Don’t f - - k it up, don’t f - - k it up, don’t f - - k it! That’s the hard part — going to the big theater, the big production, without losing the heart.”