Things to Do in Fort Wayne and Beyond

These boots were made for dancing


Michele DeVinney

Whatzup Features Writer

Published January 24, 2019

Heads Up! This article is 3 years old.

For those familiar with the work of either Harvey Fierstein or Cyndi Lauper, it’s clear that neither of them does anything lukewarm or boring.

It would have been hard to imagine how electrifying their combined talents would be until a musical named Kinky Boots came along. Their forces joined to create a show which is truly unique. Bold, bright, colorful, funny, poignant — all trademarks of Fierstein and Lauper’s years of work in theater and music, respectively.

Based on the 2005 film of the same name, Fierstein’s book and Lauper’s music provide the heart and soul of a musical which surprised many critics whose tepid response following the show’s opening in 2012 did little to inspire confidence.

But audiences felt differently, and eventually the theater world caught up, with Kinky Boots scoring 13 Tony Award nominations and six wins, including Best Musical and Best Score for Lauper.

Classic plot, Modern twist

The premise is classic Broadway with a contemporary twist. When young Charlie takes over his family’s struggling shoe factory, he fears he won’t be able to make a go of it. An unlikely muse in the person of drag queen Lola and an unlikely romance with factory dynamo Lauren provides the comedy and drama of the production, delivering an underdog story not so different from what Kinky Boots itself faced just a few years ago.

For Karis Gallant, Kinky Boots also represents an exciting new chapter in her professional life. Just months before the musical took the Chicago stage for previews in fall 2012, Gallant was finishing high school and heading to the Hartt School in Connecticut to study musical theater.

Having performed throughout her school years, the decision to pursue it professionally was easy — once she knew it was an option.

“I’ve been doing theater since I was a kid,” Gallant said in an interview with Whatzup. “All through elementary school, middle school, and high school, so when it came time to consider colleges, I talked to my teachers and said that I really like this, could I do it for a living? Is that a thing? And my teachers said yes, it was.”

Picking up a few choice roles since she left college less than three years ago (including a performance as Sandy in Grease), Gallant continued to audition for a variety of roles and last fall learned she’d been chosen to play Lauren, the feisty factory worker in Kinky Boots.

Before that time, the New York-based performer had never even seen the show.

“As soon as I got cast, I treated myself to a ticket to see it on Broadway,” she said. “Top to bottom, it’s really an amazing show.”

Traveling with a great role

Gallant appreciates the depth of not only the story and music but also of her character, Lauren.

“She’s just such a blast and so funny,” Gallant said. “A lot of women’s roles are damsels in distress or they’re chasing after someone. This woman is unapologetically herself. And that’s really true of all of the characters. They really know how to get to you so that you’re laughing one minute then crying the next. It really hits you on all emotional levels, and you just root for the characters so much.”

By the time the show hits the Embassy Theatre on Jan. 29, the cast and crew will have been on the road together for just a month, but early into the experience, Gallant is already enjoying this first time on the road.

“I haven’t really traveled that much in my life,” she said. “I had a job on a cruise ship for awhile, so that was a great experience, and I got to see some great places.

“But I haven’t really traveled in the United States, and I grew up on the east coast, so this is my first time going to the west coast and my first time in cities like Los Angeles and Chicago, so I’m really looking forward to that.”

Spreading the message

She also looks forward to sharing the deeper message of the show, one she thinks particularly resonates now.

“Audiences have been so open and nice, receiving the show very well,” Gallant said. “And it’s great to see standing ovations and great reactions from the crowds. But it’s also great to get the message of the show across.

“The show itself is such a blast, but it’s also very inspiring because it asks, ‘Why would anyone live with hate in their heart if you can be happy and live with love?’ The character of Lola makes you see that she embraces who she is, and that we have to learn to accept each other for who we are.

“I grew up in the arts so I’ve always had that openness in my life, but some people in smaller towns didn’t grow up with that,” Gallant said. “I love sharing the message that we need to be accepting, and it’s great to be able to take that message out and spread it around the country and then hope they all spread that message too.”

Kinky Boots also shows that relationships and love can come from equally unexpected places.

“My character is weird and fun and not conventionally the kind of person Charlie might fall in love with,” she said. “But he comes out of his shell, and Lauren grows and changes. Everybody goes through a change and becomes better versions of themselves.”

The good news for theater fans is that the profound message at the heart of Kinky Boots is wrapped up in catchy songs, including “The History of Wrong Guys,” a favorite moment for Gallant’s character, Lauren.

There are big dance numbers and, as befits a show called Kinky Boots, spectacular costumes.

With a run of six months ahead of her, Gallant looks forward to the experience that awaits her.

“By the time we’re done in June, we’ll have performed the show over 180 times,” she said. “I can’t wait to see what the show feels like then and to see how it’s received in all of the cities we’ll be visiting.”

Tags


Subscribe for daily things to do:

Subscribe for daily things to do:


Whatzup

© 2022 Whatzup