Cyndi Lauper says it's so easy for audiences to connect to her new musical stage project with co-writer Harvey Fierstein and director Jerry Mitchell, because "it's about real people."
"I love the story because it includes thinking outside of the box to save jobs, which is so relevant today," Lauper said while doing press interviews last month to promote the Broadway in Chicago run of "Kinky Boots," which plays its pre-Broadway previews at Bank of America Theatre now through Nov. 4.
"And it also emphasizes the message of how once you get to know a person, you can find out you really have a lot in common."
Actor Billy Porter, who plays an over-the-top drag queen with a heart of gold named Lola, joined Lauper and the rest of the cast and creatives for the recent media event to explain the magic of the new musical.
"My favorite songs are 'In the Land of Lola' and 'The Sex is in the Heel,' " Porter said.
"Just by the song titles, you know how fun this musical is for us, as well as fun for audiences."
Broadway in Chicago is launching its stage season with the new musical, uniting Lauper with her four-time Tony Award-winner Harvey Fierstein, who created the story for the stage version based on the 2005 film of the same name.
The stage production is not only directed, but also choreographed by Tony Award-winner Mitchell.
"Kinky Boots," featuring a cast of 32, is about Charlie Price, played by Stark Sands, who is forced to step in and save his family's shoe factory in Northern England following the sudden death of his father. Help comes from the unlikeliest angel, a fabulous drag performer named Lola, played by Porter, ultimately helping transform an entire community through the power of acceptance.
"Even without all of the drag wardrobe, Cyndi's songs and music make it so easy to become the character of Lola," says Porter, who previously starred in the 2012 Off-Broadway revival of "Angels in America."
"I've always been a fan of the film 'Kinky Boots,' so as soon as I started reading announcements in the trade papers that it was going to be adapted for the stage, I began making calls to let everyone know I wanted to be a part of this."
The design team for "Kinky Boots" includes Tony Award-nominee David Rockwell's scenic design, Tony Award-winner Gregg Barnes' costume design and Tony Award-winner Kenneth Posner's lighting design.
Director Mitchell, who previously worked with Fierstein for Broadway's "Hairspray" in 2002, said there's a personal reason he's especially pleased to be working in Chicago to develop "Kinky Boots" prior to launching it in New York.
"I grew up just two hours from Chicago across the lake in Paw Paw, Mich., and my first theater experience was at Chicago's Shubert Theater to see 'A Chorus Line,' in the third balcony, last row when I was 17," said Mitchell, referring to the theater space that is now Bank of America Theatre where "Kinky Boots" is being unveiled.
"Chicago was a magical place where I could see Broadway shows. We have a dream team and a heartfelt story, and I actually visited the shoe factory this story is based on."
Lou Raizin, president of Broadway in Chicago, said he's proud of the faith and emphasis Mitchell and his team place on selecting Chicago for the pre-Broadway engagement.
"There's a level of risk and creative chance taken by the producers by showcasing this work outside of New York," Raizin said.
"But no theater audiences are like our Chicago audiences."