What's on Tap

What's on Tap

'Kinky Boots' in Durham features Elon-educated actor

Posted September 13
Updated September 14

When the word finally trickled far enough down South in the early part of this decade for me to hear that the next film to be adapted into a Broadway-ready musical was to be "Kinky Boots," I thought it had all of the makings of a disaster. A little-seen British indie film, based upon the true story of a young man named Charlie Price who inherits a near-bankrupt shoe factory from his father, who forms a partnership with a local drag queen to produce a line of high-heeled boots? No one saw this when it was offered as potential Oscar bait; what makes anyone think it will do better with theater critics and patrons?

Well, I admit that I was wrong. Even if I didn’t want to admit it, the season-high 13 nominations and 6 wins it received at the Tonys would kind of force the issue anyway. With Cyndi Lauper making her Broadway score debut, as well as perennial Tony-nominee Harvey Fierstein handling the book duties, the show was custom-built to wow audiences on the Great White Way.

Now it is set to wow musical theater fans in Durham. The national touring production of "Kinky Boots" is finally opening in the Bull City Tuesday, with a Durham Performing Arts Center run that will take them through Sunday. Tickets are still available for some nights of the run, but as anyone who has tried to procure seats to a production once it has set up inside the DPAC, it doesn’t take long for shows to sell out.

I had the opportunity to speak to Adam Kaplan, the actor portraying Charlie Price throughout the national tour. Kaplan is familiar with North Carolina, as he procured his BFA in Musical Theatre at Elon University before striking out for fame and fortune in New York City. We discuss his North Carolina background, performing this show in the HB2 state, and building stamina.

Isaac Weeks: Will the first night of the Durham run of the show be the first time you’ve been on a North Carolina stage since attending Elon?

Adam Kaplan: I have been back to Flat Rock Playhouse, down in Hendersonville last summer, but this is the closest that I’ve been to performing near Elon since graduation.

IW: What led to your decision to attend Elon? If I’m not mistaken, you lived in Connecticut before college?

AK: My guidance counselor was helping me look through schools that offered musical theatre, and to be honest with you I had never heard of Elon, and he said that he had noticed Elon’s name kept popping up in books of colleges offering good music programs. I went down to the school to check it out, and it just had such an absolutely gorgeous campus. I know that it is consistently voted the most beautiful college campus in the country, although I think we slid to No. 3 this year, unfortunately. I went to the school and watched some of the classes, and just immediately though, “I have to go to school here.” I auditioned the following year, and it was the best decision I ever made.

IW: You understudied on the Broadway production of "Newsies," actually starring in it quite a few nights of your run with it. For a working actor understudying on Broadway is huge, but I was wondering what kind of differences there are for actors mentally in knowing you will be the star every night of a national touring show like "Kinky Boots," as opposed to an understudy maybe getting a chance to go out every now and then on Broadway?

AK: When I was in "Newsies" I was actually in the ensemble, so I was on stage every night regardless, and then I had a featured ensemble track. I covered two of the principals in the show, and between the two of them I probably ended up going up forty times during my time in its Broadway run.

Right now, going on tour with "Kinky Boots," I have my regimen – I know I’m doing the show each night, I know when I need to warm up, I know what time I need to go to bed, I know if I can have a drink before I go to bed, I know if I can go out for drinks after the show, I know if I need to work out before the show to get my body going – but you’re really thrown for a loop when you are told that you are going on that night as an understudy, because your body isn’t used to that. You can’t build up stamina if you don’t have a schedule. I guess the biggest difference is finding the stamina in a role.

You know, I’ve been doing "Kinky Boots" since last October for eight shows a week, and even with "Newsies" I did 600 or so performances by the time I was done with it, but it’s a completely different show when you walk on stage as a lead. It feels like you are just going from zero to sixty, as opposed to something that I had found a routine with, if that makes any sense.

House Bill 2 Complete coverage: House Bill 2

IW: North Carolina has been in the national news constantly since passing HB2. What is the feeling like backstage among the crew when it comes to performing in North Carolina? I’ll admit, it doesn’t seem like it would be a very open-minded state toward the characters of the show.

AK: I think that we all feel that coming to North Carolina to perform is now more important than ever. You know, we’ve had people come and see the show, and after seeing the scene that takes place in a bathroom they’ll ask us if the script changed to meet the current political climate in North Carolina. The script has been the same since it debuted in Chicago in 2012, so it’s unfortunately coincidental that these issues are still popping up. We play different markets around the country, and the audiences in San Francisco are going to be very different from those in Arkansas, but each audience gets something different out of it. It just so happens that, in North Carolina, hopefully people who are proponents of HB2 will come see the show and understand how damaging these laws and bills can be. I think our cast feels that it is very important for our show to come to North Carolina.

IW: How familiar with the original movie were you before picking up the role in the theatrical version?

AK: I hadn’t seen the movie prior to getting the role in the production. Once I had booked the role I watched the film, but it’s different. It’s definitely a different feel from our show.

IW: One of the changes that were made when adapting the film for the stage was adding the Cyndi Lauper score. Touching back on your days in "Newsies," how did your preparation change between the two productions and their wildly different musical scores?

AK: "Kinky Boots" is much more rock and pop heavy. With Cyndi Lauper’s score, who is much more of a pop artist than Alan Menken [the legendary composer who collaborated on the score for "Newsies"], who writes primarily for the screen and stage. Both are incredibly vocally challenging, it’s just a different approach to each. The warm-up for me is still pretty much the same, but when we go on stage the sound has to be very different, because it’s coming from a very different background. Our music supervisor, our music director, make sure that we are giving a sound that is Cyndi Lauper appropriate as opposed to a contemporary music theatre sound. The way she writes her music pays homage to a lot of other artists – we have a song that sounds like Mumford & Sons; another that has a gospel feel; another sounds like Weezer – so we have to just keep in mind who our composer is, and who we are singing every night.

Comments

Please with your WRAL.com account to comment on this story. You also will need a Facebook account to comment.

Oldest First
View all