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Arts & Entertainment

'Kinky Boots': Cyndi Lauper 'wasn't afraid of failing' in Broadway debut




A shot from the stage production of Cindy Lauper's
A shot from the stage production of Cindy Lauper's "Kinky Boots."
Matthew Murphy
A shot from the stage production of Cindy Lauper's
(Left to right) The Frame host John Horn with Jerry Douglas, Cindy Lauper, and Harvey Fierstein of 'Kinky Boots'
The Frame
A shot from the stage production of Cindy Lauper's
A shot from the stage production of Cindy Lauper's "Kinky Boots."
Matthew Murphy
A shot from the stage production of Cindy Lauper's
A shot from the stage production of Cindy Lauper's "Kinky Boots."
Matthew Murphy
A shot from the stage production of Cindy Lauper's
A shot from the stage production of Cindy Lauper's "Kinky Boots."
Jamie Loeb


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Sometimes unlikely combinations, like pickles and peanut butter, can end up working wonders. That's precisely what happened with the team behind the musical "Kinky Boots."

Originally released as a 2005 British indie movie, "Kinky Boots" failed to make waves in the United States but did manage to catch the attention of Harvey Fierstein, the actor and playwright who's won multiple Tony Awards for productions like "Torch Song Trilogy" and "Hairspray."

Fierstein decided that he wanted Cyndi Lauper, to write the music and lyrics for his stage version of "Kinky Boots," even though the pop star had never written for Broadway before. Harvey's choice worked out. "Kinky Boots" won six Tony Awards, including the Tony for "Best Musical," while Lauper won the Tony for "Best Score."

We caught up with Fierstein, Lauper, and the show's director and choreographer, Jerry Mitchell, while they were in Los Angeles this week for the opening of the touring production of "Kinky Boots," where they discussed their unlikely collaboration and drawing inspiration from each other's confidence.

Interview Highlights:

Harvey, why did you decide to bring Cyndi on to the project?

First of all, I knew she loved theater, and we'd already talked about theater, we talked about writing something together, about something autobiographical for her. And I'd seen her do "The Threepenny Opera," and so I knew she had a real feeling for theater, and I thought the club numbers would be a good entree for her into it. I didn't know in any way whether she would be able to do book scenes or anything like that, but I knew we could sneak her in that way, and instead she blew me away in every way she could.

So if Harvey didn't know if you could do it, did you know if you could do it?

No, I just did what I thought he wanted. First of all, I'd been kicked in the keister a couple times with my record company, and I just figured, You know, here's a guy calling me up and he wanted me to write something for him and he is a friend, and then he's working with Jerry [Mitchell], and Jerry's a friend. I worked with Jerry and he's a lot of fun, and so is Harvey, he's funny. And I thought, You know, because he had so much faith in me, I would really try and make them have something that's really great. I'll try my best, and if it's not right the first time you keep trying until you get it. And you do whatever it takes to get it right.

Cyndi, how did you go about writing songs for a musical adapted from a movie? Did the movie itself suggest anything musical to you?

See, what you're not hearing is that I don't know anything. [laughs] Ignorance is great, because I wasn't afraid of failing, because I'd already failed at other things, and this was an opportunity. Harvey kept saying that there are no rules, so the only thing I did, like the first time I looked at it I said, "Wow, that's a really good song, how am I gonna write a song like that?" So first I thought it was going to be like Eartha Kitt, so I went off the deep end in the wrong way, and the first guy that I tortured with that song was Jerry, because I was calling him up and leaving phone messages of myself singing. And then I called Harvey, and as I was writing I left other messages, and he always tells this story about when I forgot that I was under the hairdryer and I thought he could hear me singing in the phone.

Harvey?

This is the recording I got: "Harvey, Harvey, I've got a great idea for a song! Here's the hook: PHWOOOOOO!" [laughs]  

Cyndi, talk a little bit about the success of the show.

Who would have thought? I just wanted people to hear it. Even thought I've had a lot of success I was told how untalented I was, and how dopey [I was], and though your fans tell you that you're great, you can't read your press, cause, you know. But I never felt good about myself. And when I was able to work with them and when they thought I was good enough to do something for them, I really hauled ass as best I could.

Harvey, what are your thoughts on doing another show together?

It has to be the right thing. We've had a bunch of stuff come to us, but, you know, don't rush it. There's no reason to rush it, it'll be the right thing, and you have to let the well refill. And you have to let life happen to you again, and you have to get to the next place in life and have something else you want to say together. The last thing we want to do is repeat what we just did.

You can catch "Kinky Boots" at the Pantages Theater in Hollywood, where it's playing through November 30th.



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