Jerry Mitchell Hub




'Kinky Boots' Opens On Broadway: REVIEW

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BY NAVEEN KUMAR

Who better to help boost a stumbling economy than a brazen troupe of fabulous drag queens in high-heels? They’re just the divas for the job in Kinky Boots, the uplifting and heartfelt new musical with book written by Harvey Fierstein and music and lyrics by Cyndi Lauper, which opened on Broadway last Thursday at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre.

Kinky_Boots_Broadway_19_email_1Loosely based on the 2005 film of the same name, Kinky Boots tells the story of Charlie Price (Stark Sands), whose father dies, leaving him in charge of the family’s floundering shoe factory. Through an unlikely alliance with a wry drag queen named Lola (Billy Porter), Charlie hatches a plan to save the family business by producing stiletto boots sturdy enough to support a man’s weight, and fierce enough to satisfy his outer diva.

Of course, this is not just a tale of economic triumph. Ultimately, it’s a story about courage, pride, and accepting others for who they are—all lessons which drag queens are perfectly suited to teach the world.

Kinky Boots is also a musical very much about family. Charlie and Lola share a bond in overcoming the disappointment of not living up to their fathers’ expectations. Yet for all the characters on stage here, family bonds stretch beyond bloodlines. For Charlie, saving his father’s factory means saving his lifelong friends and neighbors from unemployment. And aside from a fraught relationship with her ailing father, Lola’s band of limber back-up Angels is the only family she knows.

Kinky_Boots_Broadway_17_email_1With direction and choreography by Jerry Mitchell, it’s hard to think of a creative team whose talents are more fit for telling a story as campy as it is sincere. Here Fierstein appropriately combines his experience writing musicals about economic underdogs (Newsies) and saucy show queens with a soft side (La Cage Aux Folles). 

Lauper’s music is buoyant, layered with synth, and provides a conducive vehicle for belt-heavy star vocals. Like the pretensionless, unabashed brand of pop she pioneered in the 80’s, Lauper’s songs are scattered with hooks and straightforward in their sentiment. From full cast dance numbers to confessional ballads, and an eleven o’clock number that Porter slays as Lola, every feeling is spelled out with a sugared clarity amplified by repetition.

Kinky_Boots_Broadway_71_email_1Both top-notch performers, Sands and Porter bring charisma and talent to their halves of the story’s central odd couple, including voices that soar over the rafters. Annaleigh Ashford is delightfully funny as Charlie’s hapless admirer and dedicated employee, though developing romantic subplots is not the show’s strongest suit. Charlie’s relationship with his fiancée dissolves mostly unseen, and Lola né Simon is actually meant to be straight as well—a holdover from its source material that this production wisely underplays.

If Kinky Boots wears its heart on its sleeve (lyrics in the closing song actually spell out its lessons in a numbered list), it’s a full heart beating with a passionate and important message worth spreading. That changing minds really does change the world is an equation we’re counting on. 

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Follow Naveen Kumar on Twitter: @Mr_NaveenKumar (photos:matthew murphy)


Looking Back At Broadway Bares...And Looking Ahead

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Broadway hasn't turned its back on the continuing AIDS crisis. Photo by Jeff Smith

Broadway Bares is a 20-year tradition here in New York, one that's raked in over $7.5 million to benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. This year alone the one-night-only spectacle—made up of Broadway's best dancers and a few of its favorite stars sizzling through burlesque numbers that leave many of them an errant sneeze away from nudity—broke its own record, collecting $1,015,985 for the charity. I went and reported on it extensively here.

28219b The brainchild of famed choreographer Jerry Mitchell, Broadway Bares has expanded to include pieces by 15 choreographers and over 200 performers. If you've never been, it's an epic production, one put together quickly but with as much passion as a musical with millions of dollars invested toward its success. Dancer Reed Kelly (pictured, photo by Tristan Fuge), known to many as Clay Aiken's boyfriend, was this year's top earner, raising over $40,000 in donations. "It was truly an honor to be a part of such a wonderful experience," he told me. "I am humbled." This is the attitude I encountered from all the lead dancers I approached—despite the grueling rehearsal schedule for no pay, Broadway Bares obviously offers a sense of community, both among the performers and the audience.

"Each year Bares is better than the last," Mitchell told me. "I truly believe that's because we have a crowd that wants us to succeed."

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Carroll's take on The Situation—better-looking, better abs, will dance for money.

Broadway Bares XX: Strip-Opoly, held June 20 at the Roseland, parodied every capitalist's favorite board game, Monopoly, featuring take-offs on its familiar game pieces (and there were plenty of pieces at the Roseland that night) and properties. One of the most memorable was "Boardwalk," featuring John Carroll as Jersey Shore's The Situation opposite Jennifer Cody as Snooki. Carroll, in the show for a second year, confirms that everyone involved is doing more than just showing up and stripping down.

"Though the show is in June, the creative team starts their process in November. Once the theme is chosen, the director and the choreographers come up with different ideas to fit the overall theme. Lorin Latarro choreographed my 'Boardwalk' number and definitely brought her 'A' game," he says. "I have to admit, when I first heard I was going to be The Situation, I didn't know what to expect. It sure wasn't a stand-and-model number."

Continue reading "Looking Back At Broadway Bares...And Looking Ahead" »


Kinky Boots to Walk on Broadway?

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The 2006 film Kinky Boots about a drag queen who helps save a shoe business with a line of fetish shoes has been acquired for the stage by producers Daryl Roth (August: Osage County) and Hal Luftig (Movin' Out), according to The Hollywood Reporter:

"Although the film is not a musical -- it contained just a few cabaret numbers -- and also played primarily as a comedy, producers say they want to emphasize the emotional aspects of the story in the theatrical production. 'The story is really about relationships,' Roth said, 'and I want to find the heart at the center of it.' After seeing 'Kinky Boots' at the Sundance Film Festival in 2006, Roth was attracted to its theatrical possibilities and eventually acquired the stage rights from Disney. Roth is one of several producers who has been bringing the theater and film worlds closer together; she recently joined with film producer Richard Gladstein to acquire the film rights for the the novel 'Apologize, Apologize' and will develop it for the big screen."

Jerry Mitchell, who Matthew Rettenmund recently interviewed for this site, is in talks to direct Kinky Boots for the stage.

Watch a clip from Kinky Boots (2006), AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Kinky Boots to Walk on Broadway?" »


Grin And Bare It

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Tony-winning choreographer Jerry Mitchell created Broadway Bares—the annual fleshfest benefit on behalf of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS—in 1992 after losing several friends to the disease. Having choreographed The Full Monty, Mitchell provides somewhat less than that with these risqué revues, which consist of hundreds of the Great White Way's greatest performers shaking what will hopefully be their money-makers through a series of naughty sketches and elaborate dance routines set to familiar and sometimes original songs. Counting this year's $875,000+ haul, Mitchell’s creation has brought in nearly $6 million dollars for AIDS over the past 16 years from a show that's traditionally only performed twice a night, once a year.

The show has such beautiful advertising, production values, participants and intentions, it was only a matter of time before a coffee-table book was born—the red-hot Backstage Pass: Broadway Bares (Universe, $55) offers 160 pages of promotional images, behind-the-scenes peeks and live moments that are not to be missed.

Having attended my first Broadway Bares on June 22, where I picked up the book, I sent word that I’d love to speak with Mr. Mitchell for this blog and he followed the yellow-brick Towleroad, calling me yesterday for a warm chat on virtually no notice. I can see why his associate refers to him as "a big ball of YES."

AFTER THE JUMP, check out the full interview.

Continue reading "Grin And Bare It" »


Jerry Mitchell on Elizabeth Berkley and the Nomi Malone 'Flick'

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Choreographer Jerry Mitchell talks to AfterElton about his role as co-host of Bravo's new reality dance show Step It Up & Dance. Mitchell's co-host is Elizabeth Berkley, whose role as Nomi Malone rates as one of the great (unintentionally) camp performances of all time. Mitchell tells AE that Elizabeth "looooves that she was in that movie" and that it took the contestants on Step Up only a split second before they honored her for it.

MitchellSays Mitchell: "Elizabeth has always been a dancer. She studied dance and she still does dance. I knew that about her. We both grew up in the Detroit area, but we didn’t really know each other before this. And I was a huge fan of Showgirls — as is everyone. I said to her the very first day we were shooting, 'I want to time how long it takes until one of these dancers does that fabulous Nomi move where they flick their fingers in front of their face.' And, of course, the moment we walk out in the first episode… She did it because they did it. We came out and the dancers all went, 'Oh my God! Nomi!' and then — 'Whoosh!' they all did the move. It took a total of about seven seconds. But you know, that movie spoke to dancers in a camp way, but also in a very realistic way about what can happen in your career, the different types of dance you can get involved in and the cutthroat world it is. So, in a melodramatic way, it’s true."

An Interview with "Step It Up & Dance"’s Jerry Mitchell [after elton]

AFTER THE JUMP, a flashback clip of Nomi's first rehearsal...

Continue reading "Jerry Mitchell on Elizabeth Berkley and the Nomi Malone 'Flick'" »


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