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Kinky Boots - Broadway

Broadway’s huge-hearted hit is the winner of six Tony Awards including Best Musical!

Kinky Boots Star Stark Sands Looks Back on His 'Life-Changing, Invigorating and Exhausting' Year in Heels

Kinky Boots Star Stark Sands Looks Back on His 'Life-Changing, Invigorating and Exhausting' Year in Heels
Stark Sands
'It's impossible not to enjoy this. Even when we're tired or worn out, the show just lifts us up.'

In the corporate world, employees leaving a job are asked to sit through a sometimes exhausting "exit interview" with HR about their time at the company. Although that concept doesn't exist for Broadway performers, we think it's fun to check in with stars as they finish up a successful run. Tony nominee star Stark Sands is about to unzip his six-inch heels for good as he departs the Tony and Broadway.com Audience Choice Award-winning musical Kinky Boots on January 26. As he says goodbye to his Kinky pals, Sands reveals how Cyndi Lauper taught him how to "cut a vein" and why Annaleigh Ashford’s fearlessness tightened his comedic chops.

Employee Name:
Stark Sands

Job You’re Leaving:
Charlie Price in Kinky Boots

How did you feel when you first got the job?
Really excited and a little terrified.

How do you feel now that you’re leaving the job?
I'm leaving after a year of performances (counting the Chicago run), and I still absolutely love doing the job. So I'm sad. But I think it's important to walk away while you still love doing it—before you reach your saturation point. I'd much rather have mixed emotions about the end of my run than be only excited or relieved to depart.

What are three words you would use to describe your experience at the job?
Invigorating. Exhausting. Life-changing.

What was the easiest thing about the job?
Having fun. With a cast, company, creative team, and material like ours, it's impossible not to enjoy this. Even when we're tired or worn out, the show just lifts us up.

What was the hardest thing about the job?
The level of absolute commitment—not just my energy, but my time and my focus. It can be all-consuming.

What was the highlight of your time at the job?
I think it's the little things—the moments you can't plan for and the times you just crack up onstage. Ellyn [Marie Marsh] not having her shoe rack and having to pile all the shoes up in her arms a la I Love Lucy; Annaleigh accidentally saying "Don really rose to the equation"; Billy [Porter]'s heel breaking right before "Sex Is In The Heel" and having to ad-lib lines to cover for it, and then effortlessly changing shoes in the middle of the dance break; the time there was huge, ominous thunder right after Jen handed me the sparkly, finished boots and said "...Well?", and we all looked up into the rafters like the sky was going to fall on us; I could go on and on. Those are the things you remember most.

What skills do you think are required for future job applicants?
Patience, focus, and balance. It takes awhile to get a handle on the responsibilities of this role, and to learn the subtle adjustments you have to make from night to night depending on the audience. Also walking in six-inch heels.

What advice would you give to future employees in your job position?
We luckily have our very own Andy Kelso taking over on January 27, and he's been an employee of "the factory" since the beginning. I'm so excited for him to sink his teeth into this role, and I can't wait to see it for myself. He already knows this, but future Charlies will discover that the trick to the job is to win over the audience in Act I and really get them on your side, so that in Act II when you push Lola and the factory workers away, you manage to keep the audience with you. It's an incredibly delicate maneuver.

How do you think you’ve grown during your time at the job?
Well I grew six inches taller every night, at least for the finale. But really, I think anytime you dive into something for such an extended period of time, you become a better performer across the board. I know I'm a better singer now than I was when we started this. My range and control have come a long way, and I've learned so much just from singing with Billy. I also think my comedic chops have sharpened a bit, thanks to Annaleigh—she has a fearlessness that's inspiring. And Cyndi probably pushed me harder than anyone I've ever worked for. Even though it was tough at the beginning, I really owe her. I'm a different singer than I was before. She taught me how to "cut a vein."

Why are you leaving the job?
I miss my wife. She's been an incredible bastion of support and encouragement through this whole experience, and has made huge sacrifices in the name of my career. It's time to hang up my heels and spend some good time hanging out with my best friend.

What will you miss most about the job?
I'll miss the company. The cast, the crew, the band, the creatives, the stage management, company management, everyone involved. I have been so lucky to be a part of such a wonderful, loving supportive "family," and I'll be popping by and visiting often.

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