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Kinky Boots - Broadway

Broadway's new high-heeled hit is the winner of six Tony Awards including Best Musical!

Fetish Footwear, Acclaimed Film & Rockin’ Broadway Musical: Explore the Many Steps of Kinky Boots

Fetish Footwear, Acclaimed Film & Rockin’ Broadway Musical: Explore the Many Steps of Kinky Boots
Chiwetel Ejiofor in the film 'Kinky Boots' & Billy Porter in the Broadway musical version
'This story is about equality, and accepting people for who they are.'

The new musical Kinky Boots tells the true story of a British shoe factory that found success crafting ladies’ footwear...for men. Below, we trace this incredible story’s journey from Northampton to Broadway.


A Life-Changing Phone Call
For four generations, the WJ Brooks shoe-making company in Northampton, England, was known for producing quality men’s footwear. But as cheap imports flooded the market in the 1980s and ’90s, the demand for well-made, expensive shoes began to dwindle, and by 1997, Brooks cut its staff from 80 local employees to 30.

“When you've been working in a factory for 23 years, it becomes your life,” said Steve Pateman, who joined the family firm in 1979, in an interview with the Northampton Chronicle & Echo. “The worst was when I had to make people redundant and break a tradition for the first time."

Just as all seemed bleak, Pateman received a call that would change his life. A fetish store in Folkstone commissioned him to create ladies’ shoes for men. Soon, Divine Footwear was born, a subsidiary of WJ Brooks dedicated to making “kinky boots.” By 1999, the specialty shoes made up 50% of the company’s revenue.

This extraordinary transformation tale caught the eye of BBC documentary series Trouble at the Top, which featured the “kinky boots” story as an example of the ups and downs of British business. Despite the media attention, Divine Footwear ceased production two years later, in 2000. Explained Pateman, “We were unfortunately let down by an American firm who dumped a big debt on us. We had to make the decision to stop production."


Introducing Lady Lola
The factory may have closed, but Pateman and Divine Footwear’s story would live on, thanks to producers at Harbour Pictures, who saw the BBC program and wanted to turn the real-life story into a fictional film.

For the movie adaptation, screenwriters Geoff Deane and Tim Firth took some liberties with the original story: They morphed Steve Pateman into Charlie Price, took the character from his 40s to his 20s, orphaned him and, perhaps most dramatically, created a new character named Lola—a Soho drag queen who would provide a face and heart to Charlie’s new clientele.

Kinky Boots starred Joel Edgerton as Charlie, Chiwetel Ejiofor as Lola, Sarah-Jane Potts as factory worker Lauren and Broadway’s Jemima Rooper as Charlie’s fiancée Nicola. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2006 and became a modest success. Ejiofor, in particular, won favorable reviews for his performance as Lola and picked up nominations for Golden Globe, British Independent Film and Black Movie Awards. 

The movie also found a fan in the man who inspired the whole thing, Steve Pateman. “It's the first time ever I've been emotional when I watched a film," he told The Telegraph.


A Musical Extravaganza
Tony-winning producer Daryl Roth saw Kinky Boots at Sundance and was immediately taken with the story and its potential as a musical. Determined to adapt the film for the stage, she first reached out to Tony-winning director and choreographer Jerry Mitchell. “I watched the movie, cried twice and called [Roth] back saying, “Yeah, this is an amazing story—a really important human story—and I would love to tell it,” Mitchell recalled to Broadway.com. A second piece of the puzzle fell into place when Tony winner Harvey Fierstein agreed to pen the show’s book.

“There’s a huge difference between movies and theater,” Fierstein told the New York Post. “Movies are about story. Theater is about ideas. You have to have something more to keep people in their seats for two and a half hours. So with Kinky Boots, I’ve amped up the story between Charlie and [Lola]. 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 convinced Grammy-winning pop star Cyndi Lauper to step into unfamiliar territory and create her first musical score. Confessing nervousness about making the jump from performer to theater composer, Lauper tole The New York Times, "I wanted them to have something as great as it could be, because they believed in me."

With music and lyrics by Lauper, a book by Fierstein and direction and choreography by Mitchell, Kinky Boots was ready for its pre-Broadway world premiere at Chicago’s Bank of America Theatre in October 2012. The show starred Billy Porter as Lola and Tony nominee Stark Sands as Charlie Price, with Annaleigh Ashford and Celina Carvajal as Lauren and Nicola, the ladies competing for Charlie’s love.


Kinky Boots Struts to Bway
After the Chicago run wrapped in November, the creative team went back into rehearsal to refine the show before Kinky Boots high-kicked to the Great White Way. “I put in a new number for Stark’s character called 'Step One,' Harvey wrote 70 new pages, we removed one song, and we have a new song for the second number in the [drag] club,” Mitchell told Broadway.com. “People are going to be surprised how happy they are when they leave the theater. Harvey’s book and Cyndi’s score are going to surprise them—it’s a great score. It’s a score you want to buy.”

From the beginning, audiences warmed to the characters. “People were walking up the aisles, going crazy—like I remember people being in the aisles at the end of Hairspray,” Mitchell said of the Chicago run. “The difference is that Kinky Boots has a more immediate quality because it’s today, whereas Hairspray was the '60s and we’ve since conquered that particular set of problems for the most part. This story is about equality and accepting people for who they are, and we haven’t completely conquered that yet.”

Added leading man Stark Sands, “It’s a show with a real heart and a really beautiful message, and if we do our jobs in telling the story then we can change the way people think. That’s kind of a lofty expectation, but I feel like this is a really good one.”

Kinky Boots opens at Broadway’s Al Hirschfeld Theatre on April 4.

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