See What Cyndi Lauper Says About KINKY BOOTS

KINKY BOOTS features 16 original songs by Grammy and Tony winning pop-icon Cyndi Lauper. Find out what Cyndi Lauper says abouts her influences, writing songs for Broadway, and the story of the huge-hearted hit, KINKY BOOTS. 

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Q – Is it true that Rodgers and Hammerstein were your initial influences?

CL – Yeah. Them, and Leonard Bernstein and Peter in the Wolf and Debussy and Tchaikovsky and things that my mother played.  And a lot of opera! 

Q – So, how did this musical come about?

CL – Well, it came to me from Harvey.

Q – And how do you know Harvey?

CL – Well, 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 then, one time he wanted me to come and sing for him.  He was getting an award.  And it was really a lovely award; for the work that he did and recognizing and what he did.  He wanted me to come and sing and I just got to know him more and more then.  And I also sought him out to work on a project that I wanted to do about my relationship with my grandmother and the women in my family. 

And we were talking – just the way he looks at things, just the way he views a story, the way he tells a story.  And if you’re watching Kinky Boots, you can see what a wonderful storyteller he is.  And, much to my luck, I was brought into this by him and he’s basically put me under his wing.  He tells me this, he tells me that.  Or even Jerry Mitchell [the director]\ tells me “I want this, I want that” and I go away and try and do what they want, because I feel that they’re great at their craft.  And I’m so honored to be working with them – don’t tell them, I wouldn’t want them to get a big head!  No, I’m kidding.  I really think they’re brilliant.

Q – When you’re writing a pop song, you don’t have to worry about what some character named Charlie who has inherited a factory is thinking.  Or a drag queen…

CL – No, no, no, no, no!  Whatever story you ARE doing, you have to worry about.  In a pop song you have to be very economical with words.  And you have to have your story – a beginning, middle and end – because if the song goes nowhere, well, what are you talking about?

Everybody asks the question about pop songs and theater songs.  I just think that, in some ways, they’re very similar and in other ways, they’re not.  You need to be economical, you have to say something simply.  I believe you still can have poetry.  Now, Harvey believes it has to be in the most stupid, simple terms, but I think he believes in poetry!  Me, I’ve been writing poetry all my life, so I kinda like poetry.

It’s the biggest collaboration I’ve ever experienced.  How many people are in the band?  How many people are onstage?  How many people are doing sound?  Who’s Charlie?  Who’s Lola? It’s a big, big thing.  There’s an orchestrator.  There’s everything!

Q – Obviously, the story spoke to you.

CL– It’s a story about an outsider.  You know, I have a kid and I have a husband.  And I’ve watched their relationship now for fifteen years.  When you’re a parent, after a while, you start to see; you start to see when they imitate the father’s walk.  And you see the two of them walking away and you see the kid walking exactly like his dad.  And then you see the year where they don’t even want to talk to their dad; it’s not cool. 

It’s funny, I made “Girls Just Want to Be Fun” very famous.  Now, I see the other side of the coin.  When this came along, the biggest draw was that every parent goes through this and every kid goes through this, and the disappointment for a kid to feel like they failed their parents is so huge, whether you’re gay or straight.  And the fact that the guy’s a drag queen, to me, is inconsequential – except for the fact that he’s so different from this factory bloke; that they can come together, overcome their differences, outside and in, for the greater good.  And it’s based on a true story. 

It almost seems like a perfect storm, the three of us coming together at this time, doing this project and all the people who came and worked along with us on this.    And I know that Daryl (Roth) called Harvey and Jerry Mitchell to do this and Harvey’s brother suggested me.  And it seemed like the perfect time. 

Q – Which were the first songs you wrote?

CL – “The Most Beautiful Thing in the World” and “Sex is in the Heel.”  “The Most Beautiful Thing” is the first thing I embarked on doing.  And that I did in the craziest way.  In the beginning, I wanted to be by myself.  I knew I’d have to bring in a musician, eventually.  But I went to some guy with Pro Tools and I started mixing.  I studied.  I listened, a lot, a lot, a lot.  And I took all the things I loved the best and put them together.  I loved My Fair Lady, I loved the father. I liked the dance hall feel.  That’s why I have, “you can tell about a fella from his shoes,” because you can!  You can tell how they walk, you can tell their style, or that isn’t their style.

And I could relate to the story.  So I started writing the father first and then after the father I wrote – I don’t have my phone on me, but I must still have Nicola’s (sings) “to new beginnings” on my iPhone.

Q – I do want to talk about one song.  “I’m Not My Father’s Son,” which, I think, is one of the most beautiful songs you’ve ever written.

CL – Thank you.

Q – And it’s such a moving moment. I just wonder if you can talk a little bit about that.

CL – Well, they sent Stephen Oremus (music director) to play the chorus for me.  And I collaborated with him on it, but I had written the chorus and I was trying to figure out how to play it for him.  And I told you, I was walking around the gym, ‘cuz I wanted to be alone.  And I just started singing (she sings) “I’m not my father’s son.” And I thought that was so sad.  And I thought, “I’m not the image of what he dreamed of.”  You know?  “With the strength of Sparta,” ‘cuz I kept watching these little boys in hockey and they looked like little Spartans!  “And the patience of Job,” because my husband has the patience of Job.  And then, I thought, “still couldn’t be the one/to echo what he’d done/and mirror what was not in me.”  I didn’t know anything yet, except I was lost in my own world.  And then I thought it’d be nice if there was just water dripping or a clock ticking, and him say, “When I was just a kid/everything I did was to be like him/under my skin,” ‘cuz that’s what little boys are like, right?

Q – It seems to me that this song is really the crux of what this show is all about.

CL – Well, they loved it! 

Q – In Kinky Boots, you’re dealing with working class people.

CL – And I am working class.  And I understand them.  I think the working class people that I grew up watching were very Shakespearean.  And I think that all the people in my neighborhood inspired me, because they were should-coulda-woulda people.

Q – And you get that in this show.  Every person who works in that factory, you sort of get a sense of…

CL – Yeah, of who they are!   They’re great actors – that’s one thing. They’re great and they’re funny, but they’re human.  And they very much look like they could work in a factory.  And you should credit Jerry Mitchell for that.

Q – Yeah.  You know, what’s beautiful about this piece is it is a Broadway musical – it’s got that uplift and joy.  The end of the first act and second act just bring you to this happy place.  But, it’s also intimate.

CL – But the end of the first act, Lola is converting the factory.  They’re going to church!

Because we’re all different, we brought in what we know in and we all worked together to make it right – to make you laugh and cry.  And Harvey is such a good storyteller and so is Jerry.  One minute you’re bawling your eyes out and the next minute, it’s hilarious.  So, I think it’s a perfect storm and I think I’m just so lucky.  And I feel so blessed to be walked through by the Lion, the Scarecrow and the Tin Man!  They have a lot of heart and they’re great storytellers and I feel very blessed to be among them.

Q – Well, thank you and best of luck.

CL – Thank you.

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