Jerry Mitchell, Harvey Fierstein, and Cindy Lauper on the Broadway musical Kinky Boots
Jerry Mitchell, Harvey Fierstein, and Cindy Lauper on the Broadway musical Kinky Boots

Cyndi Lauper Turns Broadway Baby

The pop star is the composer and lyricist of the new musical Kinky Boots, which opens on Broadway at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre on April 4, 2013.

With her aptly titled debut solo album, “She’s So Unusual,” Cyndi Lauper made pop history in 1983 when she became the first female artist to have four Top 5 hit singles from an album (“Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” “Time After Time,” “She Bop” and “All Through the Night”) for which she also received a Grammy Award® for Best New Artist. In the three decades since, the Queens, NY native has charted a unique path through the music world, constantly innovating and evolving her style. Early in her career, Lauper became associated with a quirky punk, thrift-store wardrobe that was rapidly embraced by the mainstream, and she wrote and performed songs and ballads with a strong feminist viewpoint and socially conscious lyrics. Over the years her music has ranged from bubblegum pop and disco dance music to rock, soul, and, most recently, blues. With Kinky Boots begins yet another phase in this remarkable artist’s multifaceted career: Broadway songwriter. She is the composer and lyricist of the new musical Kinky Boots, which opens on Broadway at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre on April 4, 2013.
Lauper has been on Broadway before, as a performer, playing the prostitute Jenny opposite Alan Cumming in the 2006 Roundabout Theatre Company revival of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s The Threepenny Opera. But Kinky Boots will mark her Broadway debut as a composer, a role that she has been preparing for since childhood. In her recently published autobiography, A Memoir, Lauper writes that, as a five year-old, she used to perform for herself, inspired by her mother’s Broadway albums: My Fair Lady, The King and I and South Pacific. Lauper was the first and only choice of Kinky Boots director and choreographer Jerry Mitchell as well as that of Harvey Fierstein, who adapted the source movie for the stage. Both men had worked with the pop artist before and thought her ideally suited to provide the music and lyrics of a story about two outsiders overcoming adversity, while embracing diversity in society. Mitchell choreographed Lauper’s closing night performance at the 1994 Gay Games, when she sang “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” accompanied by a chorus of 50. He subsequently directed her in the video remakes of both “Girls” and “She-Bop.” Fierstein, whose star rose on Broadway with Torch Song Trilogy in the same year that Lauper released “She’s So Unusual,” had asked Lauper to perform “True Colors” at an awards ceremony in 2002. Since then, the two have often worked together, advocating tirelessly for human rights.

“I’ve always known that she loves Broadway, the tradition of Rodgers and Hammerstein,” Fierstein said to the Chicago Tribune recently. “But she has such a range of writing that I think she’s never had a chance to really show. She gets that chance in Kinky Boots and she’s done an amazing job. Every character has their own voice. She’s giving you a score that’s unlike anything you’ve heard before.” For her part, Lauper acknowledges her trust in both Fierstein and Mitchell. “I couldn’t have walked through the world of Broadway with two better guys,” she writes in A Memoir. “They’re very gifted…. [and] they really like my music; that’s why they have me there. It’s been exciting because I don’t have to worry that someone is going to tell me to do something ridiculous that is not me at all.”

While working on the score of Kinky Boots, the versatile artist has also kept busy with new projects that continue to expand her range. In 2008, she released “Bring Ya To the Brink,” which recalled the ‘80s era disco-dance sound, and in 2010, “Memphis Blues,” her first foray into the world of blues. In the meantime, the newly released A Memoir made The New York Times best-seller list this past fall. This month she premieres Cyndi Lauper: Still So Unusual, a 12-part reality television series on WE TV which gives viewers inside access to the daily life of the rock star, mother, wife, Broadway composer, author and philanthropist. Lauper also devotes a good part of her time promoting her charitable foundation True Colors, which she founded to help advance gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender equality with a specific focus on GLBT youth homelessness.

“More than anything I want my songs not just to have great melodies, but to capture how people really talk,” says Lauper. She fell in love with the story ofKinky Boots because, “It’s about real people who saved jobs – which is very relevant to what we’re going through today – because they thought outside the box, because they cared enough to save people’s livelihoods.” Lauper notes that Charlie, the factory owner, and Lola, the entertainer who helps him keep the factory going by diversifying their products to include kinky boots for men, are an “unlikely pair,” but their story “shows us that once you get to know a person you can find out that you really have a lot in common.”

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