Photo: Courtesy of Evenko

Kinky Boots – What a way to start the New Year!

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Kinky Boots! I have seen it on Broadway and now it is about to thrill Montreal audiences – and thrill it will!

Based on a movie released in 2005, Kinky Boots is actually inspired by true events. Charlie Price inherits a shoe factory from his father. Charlie has no desire to take on the faltering shoe business and would rather move to London and work in real estate, which means closing the factory and letting the workers go. Workers that he has know since he was a child –

After meeting one of his friends for advice in a pub, Charlie sees a woman being accosted and jumps in to help her. Enter Lola, a drag queen and performer. Lola is in need of having her high heeled, her very high heeled, boots fixed. After telling Charlie how difficult it is to get the gorgeously outrageous boots in the first place, the two partner up to create a line of high-heeled boots and save Price’s business. The two travel over lots of bumps and grinds along the way, with heated discussions on how ‘Lola’ should be presenting herself at work. Not everyone at the factory is in an accepting mood –

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The musical delivers a strong message that is very important in light of the unpleasant happenings in our world today –

It takes a dream team to put together something controversial and daring. The music and lyrics are by Cyndi Lauper, the book by Harvey Fierstein. The musical received 13 Tony Award nominations and won six, including Best Musical. The press called it an upset as the British production of Matilda was considered the front runner. Lauper won Best Score which also made her the first woman to win alone in that category.

For a closer look at the show, I caught up with Aaron Walpole on tour in Denver. Walpole plays Don, one of the factory workers, in the touring production. He’s big, outgoing and I bet looks great in outrageous boots! (He also has a very infectious laugh.)

Walpole was in the Stratford production of Jesus Christ Superstar which moved to Broadway with him in it. He was also in Les Miz on Broadway (he was the alternate Valjean in Toronto) before this and has seen the Broadway production of Kinky Boots.

He became interested in musicals when at the age of ten, his mother sat him down at Easter, along with his brothers and sisters, and made them watch Jesus Christ Superstar. “We would rather have been out in the front yard beating each other up but by the end of Heaven on Their Minds, I turned to my mother and told her that’s what I wanted to do. Next day we rented three musicals – Guys and Dolls, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and L’il Abner.

Walpole was influenced by Stubby Kaye (original Guys and Dolls). He also secretly wanted to be a dancer. He loved watching Fred Astaire, admiring the lightness he had, and Gene Kelly who was so athletic, and Donald O’Connor.

Kinky Boots goes beyond the colourful trappings of costumes, set, and actors entertaining an audience with routines. It has a solid story line. It demands good actors and singers. It also has an important message, especially with all the unpleasantness occurring in the world today.

Kinky Boots has the best message, especially in the States, with the country so divided with all this Trump nonsense right now. There’s so much hatred, bigotry and racism. And people are actively being blind to it.

The message is the reason he recently signed an extension for the show. (A difficult choice for him, as he now has a baby son that he loves to entertain with song and dance.)

“It’s love and acceptance, accepting people for who they are. In doing that, you can change the world. I get to say that in the show. ‘You change the world when you change your mind.’

That’s the biggest point of the show. “In certain states, husbands are dragged to the musical by their wives. They don’t want to see a ‘Gay Musical’. I see them in the audience. I go out and do a pre-show speech and I see them sitting there, scowling. They end up identifying with my character, because my character is a jerk. He’s a close minded jerk who doesn’t want to accept a drag queen in his town, his work. I get to be the character that these men, and some women, identify with. But they see I can change and some end up thinking differently.”

“If I can change one person, just one person….” He did. He was in Connecticut last week when that truly became a reality for him. “I had the best compliment! I was walking home with another cast member and a SUV pulled up and one of the ladies in it thanked me saying that I had changed her mind.”

Music in his life is so important. He agrees that music makes us feel happy, sometimes it makes us sad, but the point is it makes us feel. That is the most important thing about the show – When you leave, you leave feeling good. It doesn’t end there, though – the message creeps through and sits with you for a long time.

You have to hand it to the creators of any show, musical or otherwise, who create what could be a life changing moment – and do it so well that you actually enjoy it.

This is just the shot in the arm to take you out of the winter doldrums – and you might learn a bit about acceptance along the way! I promise you’ll leave the theatre on a high note.

Kinky Boots, presented by Evenko, opens on January 3 and runs until January 8 .

For more information: www.evenko.ca or www.placedesarts.com

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About Sharman Yarnell

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