Getting Kinky With Kinky Boots Star Steven Booth

The Broadway star talks working with 'Kinky Boots' songwriter Cyndi Lauper and why Philly has been No. 1 on his list since he saw the tour schedule.

Steven Booth, left, with the 'Kinky Boots' cast.

Steven Booth, left, with the ‘Kinky Boots’ cast.

When I asked Steven Booth, who is starring as the very straight Charlie in the drag-infused musical Kinky Boots, if audiences come “dressed” to the show, he replied without hesitation: “Oh, yeah!”

Booth admitted that although there haven’t been a ton of folks who have donned the show’s signature knee-high red boots while taking in the Broadway tour of the Cyndi Lauper musical, it’s pretty amazing when folks do show up dressed, but it’s even more amazing when the cast sees a transformation in the not-so-outlandish audience members.

“There’s always that guy who has been dragged to the show by his wife who doesn’t know what he’s gotten himself into,” Booth said. “He’s got these drag queens on stage coming at him, and he has no way to think about who these people are. However, at the end, he’s changed a little bit in the way he thinks. The message is pretty simple: Just be who you want to be and accept others for who they are.”

The musical’s plot sets the stage for this central theme: Charlie, a young man who inherits his father’s struggling shoe factory, elicits the help of Lola and a team of drag queens to reinvigorate the factory’s production line. The result? They start creating, well, kinky boots, and Charlie and Lola, two men with completely opposite world views, become both business partners and unlikely friends.

Kinky Boots 2 Crop

The show has been a huge hit on Broadway, winning six Tony Awards, including Best Musical, and it seemed all but natural to get the show on the road, so to speak. The touring company opened in Las Vegas of last year, with Booth taking Charlie across the country–even to places that might not be totally open about a musical highlighting drag culture.

“There’s something cool about changing up and feeling out each audience, because they all react differently,” he said. “Every city has it’s own way of getting comfortable. Some of these cities, especially in the Midwest, they are a little slower to jump on board. It’s really interesting: People don’t know what they are getting into. They see the poster, with these huge red, glittery high heels, and they get drawn in. At the end, people come up to me and say, ‘I enjoyed it so much more than I thought I was going to.'”

Booth gets to perform the award-winning music of pop superstar Cyndi Lauper, someone who he describes as “passionate” and “smart.” He got to work with Ms. Lauper several times throughout the rehearsal process, something that would be a dream come true for just about any performer.

“I love singing this music,” he said. “It’s a treat because obviously it’s written by such a huge icon, and the fact that I got to talk about her music with her is just amazing. I love singing it every night. It’s the right place for my voice, and it is such a good fit.”

Personally, the tour has posed a unique opportunity for Booth that has nothing to do with hitting those high-flying pop notes: He was recently married to actress and dancer Molly Alvarez, and his wedding was featured in a New York Times article. Alvarez joined Booth for the first three months of the tour, but has since returned to New York City to teach dance and perform, so they’re working on their relationship via a lot of long distance.

“It’s not the most ideal situation for the first year of marriage, but we’re making the best of it,” he said.

And, indeed, Booth is making the best of it, and is eager to bring the show to the City of Brotherly Love. He said Philly “has been number one” on his list since he saw the tour schedule, and is excited to see how our audiences will react to this unique story of friendship and acceptance.

“The audience feeds off it,” he said. “When you’re a kid and you’re parents are laughing and supporting something that you’ve never seen your parents support before, like drag, it can really change you. So many young kids are inspired because the show tells them they can be who they want to be. They are surrounded by thousands of people who are cheering on this drag queen. It’s really moving that way.”

Kinky Boots plays the Forrest Theatre from April 28 through May 10. For tickets and more information, click here.