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Kick up your heels with the musical ‘Kinky Boots’

Original director says ‘humane’ musical has 'universal appeal'

Dec 16,2014
The Korean production of Broadway musical “Kinky Boots” is being staged at Chungmu Art Hall in central Seoul. Director Jerry Mitchell says the story will appeal to a universal audience. The show runs until Feb. 22. Provided by the organizer
The end of the year is always the busiest season for performing arts centers. Musicals, ballets, operas and classical concerts are all lined up, making even those who hardly visit the theater scan events listings for what’s going on.

Musicals are generally the best choice for arts novices as they are deemed more approachable than other theatrical formats.

And the colorful, showy Korean production of the Broadway musical “Kinky Boots” is an attractive option.

The hit show, with music and lyrics by pop icon Cyndi Lauper, is based on the 2005 film of the same name.

According to Jerry Mitchell, the show’s director and choreographer, the musical is not only exciting, it is also a “humane,” “touching” tale that has universal appeal.

Mitchell, who recently visited Seoul for the premier of the Korean production, said the film - which is based on a true story - made him cry twice.

He received a Tony Award for best choreography on “Kinky Boots” last year. His work ranges from the 1994 revival of “Grease” and “Jekyll & Hide” to “La Cage aux Folles” and “Catch Me If You Can.”

“I first received a DVD of the film Kinky Boots to watch, as I was asked if I wanted to make this into a musical,” said Mitchell.

“As I watched the movie, I began to cry because it was such a humane story. It was such a touching story and ultimately a universal story.”

The tale is about two men - Charlie the shoe factory owner, and Lola, a drag queen. They both “seem to be failures in their fathers’ eyes,” says Mitchell.

The duo form an unlikely partnership with each other after finding common ground because of the similarities between the paternal relationships they have experienced.

Charlie, who was handed down his father’s failing shoe factory, begins to produce custom footwear for drag queens with the help of Lola, who tries to save the business. As the story develops the characters in the show, despite their different characteristics and sexual orientations, find that they are not so different after all.

“The film already has songs in it from when drag queen Lola sings in clubs. It already had a musical undertone to it, so I could see it easily getting translated to a musical on stage,” said Mitchell.

The show premiered at the Bank of America Theater in Chicago in 2012 before heading to Broadway in April 2013.

The Korean production of Broadway musical “Kinky Boots” is being staged at Chungmu Art Hall in central Seoul. Director Jerry Mitchell says the story will appeal to a universal audience. The show runs until Feb. 22. Provided by the organizer
The story has universal appeal, says Mitchell, because there are “a lot of Dons out there.”

Don is one of the factory workers at Charlie’s shoe factory that is resistant to the appearance of Lola and the decision of Charlie, his best friend, to change the factory’s production line.

“The audience in Chicago could really relate to the factory worker Don in the musical,” said Mitchell.

“Don is just a regular guy with a regular job and who works in a factory doing what regular people do.

“But he has to learn to accept a change in his life. And many of the audience members find it easy to watch the musical because they can easily relate to Don. They see Don accepting Charlie and Lola and think ‘why can’t I.’ I believe that’s a universal message.”

Regarding pop icon Lauper’s music and lyrics, Mitchell said she was the perfect person to create music for “Kinky Boots.”

And that’s when Mitchell cried for the second time over the musical - listening to “I Am Not My Father’s Son,” one of the songs Lauper came up with.

“The song is an opening song that is sung by Lola in the bathroom. I heard that song and again, I started to cry because the words meant so much to me,” said Mitchell.

Jerry Mitchell, director and choreographer of “Kinky Boots,” speaks about the show during a press conference.
“The most important thing for Cindy, Harvey and myself is that we all understand the characters’ struggles and what it’s like to feel when you are in the outside and wanting to be inside. That’s where she was really brilliant in tackling,” he added.

The Korean production, which kicked off at Chungmu Art Hall in central Seoul on Dec. 2, will run through to Feb. 22.

Korean musical actors Kim Moo-yeol, Ji Hyun-woo, Yoon So-ho alternate the role of Charlie, while Oh Man-seok and Gang Hong-seok are double cast as Lola.

Veteran musical actor Ko Chang-seok and Shim Jae-hyun will share the role of Don.

Tickets range from 50,000 won ($45.50) to 140,000 won.

The show starts at 8 p.m. on weekdays; 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Saturdays and at 2 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. on Sundays and public holidays.

There are no shows on Mondays.


BY YIM SEUNG-HYE [sharon@joongang.co.kr]


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