Take a cult film involving a drag artiste, add songs by a popular songwriter, hire a Tony-winning book writer, director, and choreographer, and voila! You haveâ€¦.â€Hairspray.â€ Well, actually, you have a Broadway musical following in those sizable, high-heeled footsteps. Here comes â€œKinky Boots,â€ with songs composed by Cyndi Lauper, a libretto by Harvey Fierstein (â€œLa Cage Aux Follesâ€), and directed and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell (â€œHairsprayâ€). The team includes veteran producers Daryl Roth and Hal Luftig and even the small print features top shelf names, including Gregg Barnes on costumes and David Rockwell on sets.
Only a fool would ordain any Broadway-bound show as a sure thing. After all, â€œPriscilla, Queen of the Desertâ€ had a lot going for it, including Bette Midler as a producer, and a jukebox score of fizzy pop tunes. And that wasnâ€™t enough to set the box-office afire. But â€œKinky Boots,â€ which this week announced that it would open at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre this spring, has Broadway buzzing about its commercial prospects.
Based on a 2005 British indie flick about a young man who inherits a failing shoe factory and finds an unlikely savior in a London drag queen, the musical stars Stark Sands (â€œJourneyâ€™s Endâ€) and Billy Porter (â€œSmokey Joeâ€™s CafÃ©,â€ â€œGreaseâ€). The show, which marks Lauperâ€™s Broadway debut, will have an out-of-town tryout in Chicago this fall prior to its New York bow. With this announcement, the slate of new musicals â€” as many as a dozen â€” is coming into greater focus. But unless a surprise materializes â€” and there always seems to be one â€” â€œKinky Bootsâ€ and â€œMatildaâ€ are shaping up to be the shows to beat for Best Musical Tony Award.
â€œMatildaâ€ is based on the Roald Dahl childrenâ€™s classic about a precocious and vengeful child with telekinetic powers and it already has the imprimatur of Ben Brantley, chief critic of the New York Times, who reviewed the Royal Shakespeare Company production after it transferred from Stratford to Londonâ€™s West End. Despite winning critical raves and multiple awards, â€œMatildaâ€ could yet prove to be â€œtoo Britishâ€ for American audiences â€” a charge that was hurled at â€œBilly Elliot,â€ which nonetheless managed to run nearly four years. It is unlikely to be leveled at â€œKinky Boots,â€ given its all-American, bred-on-Broadway team.