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The original Broadway company of Kinky Boots

Kinky Boots Original Company Members Reflect on Six Years in the Show

There’s a reason nearly a dozen original cast members are still performing in Kinky Boots on Broadway six years after it premiered. “It’s not a mistake that about half of our cast is part of the original company, because we have such a good time here,” boasts Daniel Stewart Sherman, who plays Don — and who (spoiler alert!) sports red thigh-high heels in the finale. “I will miss the reaction people have when they see me in the boots,” he says of his titular costume.

When Kinky Boots closes April 7, it will have played 2,540 performances — making it the 25th longest-running production in Broadway history. “There are very few shows that stay open as long as we have,” explains dance captain Nathan Peck. “I’ve always thought this piece was special since the workshop we did. I knew the story was really, really great.”

Based on the 2005 British film, the musical, with a book by Harvey Fierstein (Torch Song, Hairspray) and music by Cyndi Lauper, won six Tony Awards in 2013, including Best Musical and Best Score. The show tells the story of a shoe factory owner (Charlie Price) struggling to keep the doors open and his workers employed. He meets a drag queen (Lola) who helps him rebrand and come up with a unique idea to keep the factory running. Before making a home for itself at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre, Kinky Boots held workshops and previewed in Chicago.

Caroline Bowman (Nicola) was part of the ensemble when Kinky Boots opened and understudied the role of Nicola. She left soon after to play Eva Peron on tour. “[Producer Hal Luftig] said to me, ‘You will always have a home here,’ and it’s true. I got to come back and be with my family. Everybody welcomed me back with open arms. It’s very a neat thing to have a full-circle moment and come back to a role that I didn’t really get to play.”

“It’s going to be really weird not seeing them every day because you kind of take it for granted,” says Jennifer Perry (Trish), thinking back to her time on stage and off. “We’re like brothers and sisters. We don’t hold back anything.”

Broadway Direct sat down with some current cast members who were all part of the original production to talk about staying with the show all these years, their favorite stars in the audience, and moments they’ll never forget.


What’s your favorite memory from being in Kinky Boots?

Daniel Stewart Sherman: It’s two days before we have to do our presentation in front of all the investors before we went into rehearsal for Chicago. [Director] Jerry [Mitchell] comes up to me and says, “I think it’d be really great if you came out in the boots.” And I was like, “OK, sure.” He looks at me dead seriously and goes, “Do you have any kinky boots of your own?” He’s waiting, and I’m looking at him like, You’re serious? Well, the answer would be no. He looks like I had taken crayons away from him, he was so let down. Then all of a sudden he goes, “You can wear mine.” His boots were knee-high, poached-salmon pink, eight-inch heels with a two-inch platform. We’re the same size: 13.

Jennifer Perry: This was my first official opening night on Broadway. I’ve been in other Broadway shows, but I’ve been a replacement.

Stephen Berger (Mr. Price): Opening night and performing at the Tonys are my favorite. When your number is over at the Tony Awards, they turn all the lights on in the theatre — taking in that audience is just a thrill.

Kevin Smith Kirkwood (Angel): Performing at the Tonys and then being backstage when we won the Tony Award is pretty high up there because the energy was electric. Being able to celebrate that actually happening in real time in our costumes after we just performed was pretty amazing.

Has the audience changed at all?

Nathan Peck (Swing): It’s reached more people because they don’t necessarily expect the message they get when they buy a ticket.

Stephen Berger: The first six months of a show is all New York theatergoers. That turns more and more into tourism.

Nathan Peck: They come in thinking they’re going to get this drag show. But then there’s actually something deeper in the story and it’s unexpected, especially for people who maybe don’t know too much about it. It’s nice that a message [of] acceptance, being who you want to be, pursuing your dreams, being yourself, really impacts many different kinds of people from all over our country.

Has the show changed at all since it first opened in 2013?

Nathan Peck: There are so many of us original company members. The fact that everybody has been in the show for such an extended period of time and is so committed to the piece, it holds up, and there’s an authenticity there.

Stephen Berger: The show stayed very clean and very strong for six years. We’ve had very few [brush-up rehearsals], whether it’s the cast, the structure of the show, the original work by the director [Jerry Mitchell, or] maybe it’s a combination of all three.

Marcus Neville (George): The show is going to be a few minutes different depending on who’s [performing].

Why stay in a show, doing the same thing eight nights a week, for six years?

Kevin Smith Kirkwood: I’m committed to the message and energy that the show puts out into the world. I am so proud to tell this story every night and to see how it impacts people. We get letters from people and kids saying, “I just came out to my parents,” or parents saying, “You gave my kid the courage to be him- or herself.”

Marcus Neville: Since I was a kid, I knew I wanted to do this as a career. I have the opportunity to fulfill that dream. I also adore the character [of George]. I enjoy spending time with him, and the character George has deep affection for people around him.

Adinah Alexander (Milan Stage Manager): But I left to do other things. When I did the first reading [of Kinky Boots], I knew it was going to be a hit and going to run. I was at the point where it would take me into my pension so I knew it would be a really good place to stay for a long period of time.

Stephen Berger: I never in a million years thought I’d be doing a show for six years. It was beyond my wildest dreams or plans, quite frankly. But it’s a great place to come home to every night.

What are you going to miss about this show?

Daniel Stewart Sherman: I will miss looking at the boots.

Kevin Smith Kirkwood: I will miss the heels because they’re gorgeous; I won’t miss dancing in the heels eight times a week.

Adinah Alexander: There’s a lot of camaraderie that goes on off stage that I’m definitely going to miss. I’m going to miss the laughter. We have great relationships. A lot of it you build through the course of the show when you’re not on stage.

Jennifer Perry: I’m sad. I’m going miss the role of Trish. For a character actress like me, you don’t get to portray roles that get to be funny and very serious. I love the arc that I got to create in the show. When you work with Jerry [Mitchell], you have a lot of creative input. So [Trish is] very special to me. [In] the second act, I get some really nice acting moments with Charlie and I’m going miss that. Now I’m getting really emotional.

Caroline Bowman: Everybody was important [to] Jerry Mitchell, Harvey Fierstein, and Cyndi Lauper. We all came up with these elaborate backstories, and I think that’s why the show has lasted so long and why it’s so important to people [in the cast]. My character, the second ensemble girl in the back, sang a bunch of high notes and nobody really knew who I was. But the second Harvey found out [I named my character] Maggie, he wrote her into the script. So now, whoever plays the character is always going to be named Maggie.

Who is your favorite celebrity to join you on stage? 

Adinah Alexander: When Brendon Urie was here, it was insane. [There was this] rock star quality he brought to [the show] and crowds; cars couldn’t get through the streets.

Who is the most memorable star to see the show?

Jennifer Perry: Oprah Winfrey.

Stephen Berger: Robert De Niro.

Jennifer Perry: Of course Cyndi [Lauper]. We see her a lot. Sting was a big one. Alice Cooper was a big one for me because I’m a huge fan. Sara Bareilles was here.

Stephen Berger: Keith Richards. When we heard Michelle Obama was here, it was exciting, but she couldn’t come backstage because of security reasons.

How has your life changed over the last six years?

Daniel Stewart Sherman: There have been children born during our run and relationships formed. People have gotten married and people have gotten divorced.

Caroline Bowman: We’ve all been there to support each other and love each other. Most of the cast got to meet my husband, Austin Colby, between our Chicago out-of-town [shows] and first rehearsal [for Broadway].

Stephen Berger: The obvious answer: Financially it’s been very good. I’m 64. Pension-wise, it’s been very nice to have this big build toward the latter part of my career.

Kevin Smith Kirkwood: I have a new cat.

What’s next for you?

Marcus Neville: I’m going to gain 500 pounds and yell at the television.

Adinah Alexander: I’d like to do summer stock or do a play — just do something different because I have been doing the same thing. My best friend is always asking, “Can you come out to the beach for the weekend?” Now I’ll be able to say yes. It’ll be really nice to have a chunk of time that’s just mine. I’m looking forward to doing nothing for a little while and just having a night to myself.

Daniel Stewart Sherman: We’re starting to do season two on a TV show for AMC called Launch 49.

Jennifer Perry: I’m moving on to a new show: My Very Own British Invasion. Hopefully, it will go to Broadway.

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