Whilst Kinky Boots may now be a multi Tony Ward Winning Broadway Musical set for a West End transfer, what some people may not know is that the story started life in a little British village called Earls Barton in Northamptonshire. In this post we reveal exactly how the critically acclaimed story rose from a sleepy village to the dizzying heights of Broadway.
From Northampton to Hollywood
At the heart of the glitzy, show stopping Kinky Boots lays a true story amid a very humble background. In 1999 the BBC aired a documentary about the demise of a family run shoe factory, WJ Brooks Ltd, who had been in the footwear industry for several decades. Business owner, Steve Pateman, took over the company from his father in the early 90’s, only to see his business hit by the growing trend of cheap imports. Deciding that to succeed was to branch out, Pateman decided to tap a niche area of the market; fetish footwear. Pateman even took his new shoes, sold under rge brand “Divine Footwear” down a catwalk at a shoe fair!
Sound familiar? Of course it does! It just so happened that Geoff Deane and Tim Firth had seen the BBC documentary and were so inspired by Pateman’s plight, they decided the idea would work well on screen!
Renaming some of the key figures from WJ Brooks Ltd, Dean and Firth named the protagonist of the show “Charlie” and added a love interest in the mix, factory worker “Lauren.” Additionally, the character of “Lola” was added, who plays a drag queen that Charlie uses for market research, eventually forming a winning relationship for success.
The film was released in 2005, starring Joel Edgerton as Charlie, Sarah-Jane Potts as Lauren and Chiwetel Ejiofor as Simon. The film was a box office success, grossing $9,941,428 internationally. Ejiofor was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a comedy.
See the Kinky Boots Film Trailer below:
Hollywood to Chicago
Hollywood was not Kinky Boots final catwalk, in fact it was just the beginning! Broadway producer, Daryl Roth, saw the film at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival and saw true musical potential in the movie. Enlisting the help of co-producer, Hal Luftig, Roth secured the rights to adapt the film for the stage.
Seeking out Jerry Mitchell (La Cage aux Folles, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and Legally Blonde: The Musical), Roth and Luftig commissioned actor and writer Harvey Fierstein to write the book adaptation, knowing he was a good friend of Cyndi Lauper’s. As the team came together, Lauper was also enlisted as it was thought she could write show tunes as well as popular club music, two genres desired for the show. Having performed on Broadway as well as fulfilling a career as a popstar, Lauper had the experience needed to express theatricality via catchy pop tunes.
The creative team was by and large formed by 2010 and by October 2011, an initial reading of the script took place. Workshops for the show began in 2012, with Billy Porter and Stark Sands winning the leading roles of Charlie and Lola. Following rehearsals in New York City, the show opened in October 2012 for a pre-Broadway tryout at the Bank of America Theatre in Chicago.
Chicago to Broadway
The Chicago tryout was a success but did reveal room for improvement for the show. New musical numbers were added, including Charlie’s second song, and the book was slightly revised for the Broadway stage.
Kinky Boots opened at the Al Hirshfeld Theatre on Broadway on March 3rd 2013, to widespread praise and high box office sales. The final nod of approval for the show was in its 13 Tony Award nominations, in which the show swooped a staggering 6 Awards, including the award for Best New Musical. One thing was for sure, Kinky Boots had arrived on the Broadway Scene with glitzy pazazz, and these red shoes were a long way from their humble beginnings in Earls Barton.
Broadway to London?
At the beginning of 2014 Director Jerry Mitchell confirmed that Kinky Boots will be coming to London. In a statement made to The Stage, Mitchell said that the creative team were awaiting a vacancy in one of four West End theatre venues, ready for an opening in Spring 2015. Watch this space London…