Whatever Lola wants…1/21/2015
“Cyndi Lauper brought it off!” exclaims Nick McCough. “She brought her rock ’n’ roll to Broadway!”
What has got McCough so excited is “Kinky Boots,” the new musical, bursting with the same energy Lauper brought to “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” in 1983. Thirty years later, her score for “Kinky Boots” picked up a Tony Award (the show won several), and now the touring company includes six musicians and a distinct rock flavor. Having such a blockbuster reach town so soon after its Broadway premier is another coup for Des Moines Performing Arts — but McCough would be happy to play anywhere.
“The high points are so exciting,” he says. “Just phenomenal. And yet it’s a true story, an uplifting story.”
That story concerns a remarkable financial turnaround. In the ’90s, a shoe factory in Rust-Belt England saved itself from bankruptcy by converting to men’s fetish footwear. The BBC ran a documentary, someone else made a movie, and then in New York, Lauper got together with Harvey Fierstein, the playwright, actor and gay activist.
Those two worked up more than rockers. Among the ballads is a touching centerpiece, “I’m Not My Father’s Son,” in which a black drag queen finds common ground with the harried white boy who inherited the shoe-shop. Still, the show’s signature numbers are the high-kickers.
“My favorite: ‘The Sex Is In the Heel,’ from the first act,” McCough said. “That’s when all of us Angels get to show off what we can do.”
The Angels, including McCough, are the backup group for Lola, the drag queen who saves the factory. Her act itself requires plenty of costume changes. She and the Angels perform in five different sets of high heels, and then, McCough said, “at the end, we get the kinky boots.”
On top of that, the storyline puts everyone though a boxing match. The shop’s burly foreman, upset about the new product line, challenges Lola to a fight. The scene is played for laughs, mostly.
“Just try to imagine a drag act in a boxing ring,” says McCough.
Then at the finale, everyone struts for a fashion show in Milan, where Lola rules, to be sure.
Here in Des Moines, the woman will be played by a new man.
“The Lola we had on tour has graduated to Broadway,” explains McCough. Instead, starting at the Civic Center, Darius Harper will step into the role.
“Harper is so awesome,” McCough gushes. “He was one of the Angels, and now he’s so fired up.”
In fact, the interview came as the show was going through fresh rehearsals — making sure that Lauper’s girls went on having fun.
Overheard in the Lobby: On Jan. 24 at the Playhouse, the audience for “The Miracle Worker” will have the chance to use IRIS, a software that creates audio descriptions. CV
John Domini is a published local author who has lived on both coasts and abroad and enjoyed theater everywhere. See www.johndomini.com.