‘Kinky’ girl

Posted on 27 Feb 2015 at 6:00am

Cyndi Lauper, the queen of New Broadway

Arnold Wayne Jones

Cyndi Lauper Photo Credit Gavin Bond hi-res RT cropThe gay community has had no greater ally over the last 30 years than Cyndi Lauper. Since her Grammy-winning debut She’s So Unusual in 1983, the dare-to-be-different gal has been an icon to outcasts, and often a plainspoken defender of LGBT issues — nowhere more so than via her True Color Tours. So it was a shock to no one when Lauper teamed up with the powerhouse gay team of Harvey Fierstein and Jerry Mitchell to collaborate on her first Broadway musical, Kinky Boots, which won a slew of Tony Awards in 2013, including one for Lauper herself for music and lyrics.

Just as the national tour opened in Dallas (see the review, Page 16), we got a chance to pose a few questions to Lauper about what it’s like writing for Broadway, how she got drafted on the team and her own plans for more musicals down the road.

Dallas Voice: You’d never done a Broadway musical before — how did you get hooked up with Harvey and Jerry to be the composer of choice?  Cyndi Lauper:  Well, it came to me from Harvey.  I’m a huge fan of Harvey and I know him because he’s a very strong leader in the [LGBT] community that I’m a friend and family member of. And to do my first Broadway project working side by side with Broadway royalty like Harvey, [director/choreographer] Jerry [Mitchell] and our music director, Stephen Oremus, was just amazing. I mean, to be shown the ropes by these amazingly talented men — who at the same time, really respected and listened to my ideas — was just great. We all got along. Even when we had artistic differences about some points, we worked it out because we all wanted what was best for the show.

How familiar were you with the movie Kinky Boots before you tackled the project? I had actually not heard of the film before Harvey approached me about the idea of collaborating on it with him for Broadway. I watched it right after Harvey told me about it, though. I had just gotten off the road and was at home and when Harvey told me what the story was about I was intrigued. I loved the film.

What, if anything, was the most intimidating — or surprising — about composing for Broadway?  Writing songs for theater rather than pop is very different. Your job as the composer of a musical is to move the story forward with the songs. You have to write for many voices and from all the characters’ perspectives. And I had a blast doing that. There were songs that I wrote that I really loved that didn’t make the show because maybe there was a change in the book or there was a different arc for a character and the story and therefore the song had to change. For my own CDs, when I write a song that I love, it makes my records! LOL! And of course when I write for myself, I’m writing from my perspective, it’s the story I am trying to tell through the songs on the album to my fans.

So how did you go about composing a score for different “voices” — characters other than your own? Was it a challenge?  I really loved doing that, putting myself in the mind of one of the close-minded factory workers, or the mind of a young man struggling with issues he had with his father. Of course, there are those characters in Kinky Boots that I totally relate to, like Lauren, and there are universal stories being told in the show, so there’s that aspect, too. But I did find it particularly exciting to put myself in someone else’s shoes … no pun intended.

You mentioned how you’re a friend and family member of the LGBT community, and have been deeply involved in LGBT issues for many years. Is that one reason why the story spoke to you?  Kinky Boots’ message is about being true to yourself and being proud of who you are. Really that is the heart of the matter for me.  As a kid, because I was “different,” I got picked on a lot. I tried to fit in, too, but at the end of the day, that was more painful than not being in the in-crowd or having a lot of friends or going to all the cool parties or in some cases being bullied. When I finally just accepted myself for who I was, I blossomed. I found my voice and in the end that is what brought me all my success, so I try and tell that story because only when you love yourself can your life really start. This speaks not just to the LGBT community but to everyone!

Since you won the Tony and have a huge hit, what are your plans in the future — any chance of another score from Cyndi?  I absolutely would like to do more theater work. In fact, I’m already in early discussions about a few projects … it’s just too early to talk about them.

What does the fact the show is now touring mean to you?  At the heart of the matter, the story of Kinky Boots is about the power of love and acceptance, and I’m so happy the show is being brought to people in their own backyards so they can see it and hopefully be moved by it.  We all need to be reminded of that lesson, and its great the show is going across the country and so happy people in Dallas have a chance to see it for themselves.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

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