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Harvey Fierstein, Jerry Mitchell, Cyndi Lauper and more get Kinky at the Kinky Boots Round Table


01 October 2015

If you’ve seen the fantastic new musical “Kinky Boots” at the Adelphi Theatre, you may have wondered where all of that unadulterated energy comes from. Having met some of the stars and creators of the show, it is no longer a mystery to me. I was lucky enough to sit down with Harvey Fierstein (Book), Cyndi Lauper (Music & Lyrics), Jerry Mitchell (Director & Choreographer), Matt Henry (Lola/Simon), Killian Donnelly (Charlie) and Amy Lennox (Lauren) for a roundtable interviewing about their exciting new show. What followed was an onslaught of passion and enthusiasm that made me want to jump back into the theatre to watch it again!

They came in chatting, full of life. Jerry Mitchell sat down and immediately starting telling us the story of visiting Trickers. Our only major problem from here on in was finding a pause long enough to ask another question. Quite frankly, an interviewers dream.

Jerry Mitchell: All the factory workers from Northampton were invited, by us, to come see the show. We took the cast to Northampton for the very first day of rehearsal, to tour the factory where they made the film, Trickers, because I had done it when we were preparing the New York production, and then we invited them all to see the show. There’s one particular young woman, whose hair I loved so much, I made the wig maker make her hair and put it in all of the productions.

Amy Lennox: The mullet!

[Laughter]

Jerry Mitchell: I’ve got a picture of her with the girls. It was sensational. They loved the show, they were in tears, they felt so special. The factory on stage looks very much like Trickers.

 

Cyndi, had you always thought of writing for Broadway?

Cyndi Lauper: Never

 

So how did this come about?

Cyndi Lauper: I got a phone call from my buddy over here [indicates Harvey Fierstein]. I had wanted to do this story, you know how one thing leads to another, I did an album and I chose all these old songs from the time when I was growing up. Where I grew up was very influential for the rest of my life because of the people. It was one of those places with the backyards and the gates, where you could just look down and see everybody else in their backyards, and there was a lot of people who were characters. I had gone to see Harvey to help me write it and have him actually write it and he was doing Hairspray. I remember because he came in and he said: “I gotta eat pasta, I need a lot of energy for this one!” [laughs].he talked to me about stories and the possibility of what could happen in the story. After I finished “Bring Me To The Brink” and the tour, it was around 2008 and he called me up, I’d just finished washing the dinner dishes, and he said: “What are you doing?” and I said: “Really, not much” and he said: “How would you like to write this thing, Kinky Boots?” and I said: “Absolutely” and he said: “How about you look at the film first” because I wanted to work with him. I know nothing but I do know there are, on one hand, the best musical book writers and Mr Fierstein is right up there on the top, in my opinion, and I think that it is a real hard and tricky thing to write a musical, you have to know how and he did. I didn’t know what I was doing so I didn’t know what the hell I was getting into. I just knew I was going to work with him and then he said he was working with him [indicates Jerry Mitchell]

[Laughter]

Cyndi Lauper: And he was my friend too so I thought: “What the hell? I’m gonna have a good time. Just one thing, no crazy people!” and he said: “Fine, no crazy people.”

Harvey Fierstein: Then the producers showed up...

[Laughter]

 

Tell me about the writing process between the two of you.

Cyndi Lauper: He would call me up and he would say: [imitates Harvey’s famously raspy voice] “I need a song called Sex Is In The Heel” so I said; “Fine” and would go and write the song and then he’d say [indicates Jerry Mitchell]...

Jerry Mitchell: ...I would say: “Listen, write me a song where everybody says ‘Yeah! I like this boot...Yeah! I want a boot...Yeah!’”

Harvey Fierstein: You danced it through the room!

[Laughter]

Cyndi Lauper: So I wrote a song where they all said ‘Yeah’. It’s catchy! At least people remember it. And then it became a process.....

Harvey Fierstein: It’s a process. You’re story telling. There’s nobody in the show who is an ‘I want...’ character. They don’t know what they want. The show should open with one of them singing: “I want...” neither fucking one of them knows what they want!

[Laughter]

Harvey Fierstein: It’s a very hard thing to do so I said: “At least let them tell the audience who they are and everyone defines their lives by the shoes.” Cyndi actually turned around at one point and said: “They do know they’re shoes, right?”

[Laughter]

Harvey Fierstein: I’ll give you an example of how the three of us work; we were starting to write the show, Cyndi and I were writing and this one [Jerry] had to run off to London because he was working on Legally Blonde. He calls me from outside a pub and he says: “You’re not gonna fucking believe where I am. I’m in this pub and up on the second floor there’s a boxing ring.” I said: “You’re kidding me” and he said: “They’re up there beating the shit out of each other!” I said: “That’s it! That’s it! Get off the phone!” Remember in the movie there’s an arm wrestle? I didn’t want to do the arm wrestle, how boring, it’s like a chewing gum blowing contest. So I call this one [Cyndi] up and she comes out of the world of wrestling so she goes: “I got it! I got it! In this corner.” Then she starts writing In This Corner. I’m writing the scene, she already knows because she comes out of the wrestling world, we go up to this one [Jerry] and we go “We’re gonna have David (Rockwell – Set Designer) build us a boxing ring onstage...” and he goes: “Fuck that,” and throws a drag queen on the floor, sticks her leg up and wraps a chord around it: “We’ve got it!” There are some people, who will remain nameless, who spend millions of dollars putting rings on stage, he put a drag queens leg on stage! And that’s the creativity of theatre. You have these three minds feeding off each other, having this wonderful time of creativity. And in reality, nobody seeing the show would ever say: “Jerry came up with this... Harvey came up with this... Cyndi came up with this...” You should never know. If you know who came up with a specific idea we haven’t done our job right. It should be such a blend of minds.

Jerry Mitchell: That’s what makes musicals incredible.

Harvey Fierstein: That’s what makes theatre incredible.

Cyndi Lauper: But it’s everybody you know. It’s also the actors. There was a time when I was looking for men to demo the thing because they said, not everybody, but some people were saying: “You’re a woman, I gotta hear it in a man’s voice.” So then I was looking for a guy to sing it so I could demo it and I did demo it. Nobody was used to that. I demoed it so that you could actually hear what I was thinking because I wanted the rhythms to be very specific and authentic because he [Jerry] is one of the greatest choreographers and he needs to have authentic rhythm. So all that was in my head while he [Harvey] was writing me going: [imitates Harvey’s voice] “Christina! Where are my lyrics?!”

[Laughter]

Cyndi Lauper: I would call him constantly and sing stuff on the phone [Harvey growls]

 

READ THE FULL ROUNDTABLE HERE

Written by Melanie Crossey in association with Acting Hour

 

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Kinky Boots is on at the Adelphi Theatre now and is booking until February 2016

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