Kinky Boots remains one of the most popular and talked about musical on Broadway. It has routinely delighted audiences of all sorts with a heartwarming tale about how a group of rural factory workers address the needs of urban drag queens. Together, they save the factory from shutting down. One of the standout performers is Annaleigh Ashford, who brings both humor and optimism to the show. Here, Ashford explains what sets this show apart:
What drew you to the role of Lauren, and to the show generally?
Ashford: The show is an incredible story about people who come to accept themselves by learning how to accept others. Lauren is a tough, no-nonsense girl who fights for her fellow factory workers to keep Price & Son afloat during a changing time in the industry of shoe making. I loved both the story and the character because they were both relatable and inspiring. The creative team of Jerry Mitchell, Harvey Fierstein, and Cyndi Lauper also made this show such a special project.
In addition to having great chemistry together, the cast looked like it was all having so much fun out there. After a Tony and hundreds of performances, how do you keep the energy up as if it's the first night of the run?
Ashford: The message of the show keeps the motor running. We are a group of actors that knows how lucky we are to get to tell this story every night and we are grateful to do it. The audience comes in every night ready to enjoy the show and they give us so much of our energy.
It's interesting to see how the show handles Nicola, your rival for Charlie's heart. You sort of understand Nicola's perspective, and she's not portrayed as the typical, nasty girlfriend that turns up on Broadway so often. I found myself feeling compassion for Nicola, but rooting for Lauren. Is that a common reaction?
Ashford: That is an absolutely common reaction and is a testament to Harvey's writing. Both women want different things in life and Charlie, Nicola, Lauren, and the audience all know towards the middle of act two that Charlie and Lauren are more of a match than Nicola and Charlie. It is a relief to Nicola and Charlie that they figure it out before they actually get married, and therefore you still have compassion for Nicola. But then you are free to root for Lauren and Charlie romantically at the end of the story.
Cyndi Lauper's music really stands out from other Broadway shows, but there's still plenty of heart and emotion in the songs. It definitely mirrors what we're seeing happen with the plot, particularly in your rendition of "The History of Wrong Guys." What was the thought process that went into that memorable performance?
Ashford: When we first started developing the song we really focused on Lauren retreating to her head when the music begins so that the song is a series of beats where Lauren slips in and out of reality. We all know how those first few moments of butterflies feel like, so I think the physical reactions that we chose for Lauren to experience are very relatable. It's also a bonus that it is an amazing Cyndi Lauper pop song!
What underlying message do you hope that people take home from the show?
Ashford: If you can change your mind, you can change the world!!!