Given Pride marches and gigs are practically Cyndi Lauper’s second home, it makes perfect sense that the 62-year-old was keen to write the music and lyrics for Kinky Boots, the stage musical version of the film about a fierce drag queen named Lola (played over here by Matt Henry) and the unlikely alliance she forms with shoe factory boss Charlie (Killian Donnelly).
Hitting London at last, it’s the ultimate feel-good show with an amazing score and it’s a musical that’s as much about acceptance as it is about fantastic outfits and fabulous tunes. It’s no wonder Cyndi is excited, although she also confesses to being nervous about how it will go down over here…
What lured you to step into Kinky Boots in the first place?
Firstly, it was Harvey [Fierstein, collaborator on the musical] because he’s someone I’ve always admired and he’s a friend. And when I saw this story about people – and very different people – and seeing how they could come together and it’s based on a true story, that lured me in. Although I still don’t know if they made Lola up or if she’s real. I’m coming to London looking for Lola and going ‘Where is she?’
Speaking of London, are you looking forward to it being performed in England, where the story is set?
Absolutely, because it’s from England and it’s great to hear it sung and spoken by English people, you know what I mean? But just to be a part of something that makes people happy and which tells a story about diversity is wonderful. Here are two guys, completely different. Yes, one is a cross-dresser but in the end what I love about it is the fact everyone evolves in it and that in a way it doesn’t matter if Lola is a cross-dresser, it’s just about how different she is. Everybody thinks they have to accept Lola but in the end they have to accept Charlie. It’s an interesting and real story.
How much blood, sweat and tears were involved in writing the score?
You have in your mind that you’re doing it like this or that and it comes out sounding like you anyway, but there were a lot of influences. You probably can’t hear Sylvester’s influence in there but in my mind there’s the spirit of what he did from the Stars album onwards. Writing for Charlie was harder but writing for Lola happened right away. But I loved working with Harvey and Jerry [Mitchell, the show’s director] and Stephen Oremus [the musical director]. They were all brilliant and I was walked through this project like Dorothy on the Yellow Brick Road by, like, The Scarecrow, The Lion and The Tin Man. A lot of times you work really hard on something and it just doesn’t happen, but for this to happen the way it did made me feel like ‘Wow!’ It’s amazing. It’s like a happy pill.
Why are LGBT issues so important to you?
Because I’m a friend and family member, that’s why. Where I come from, you don’t sit back and let other people talk down to your family or your friends and take their civil rights away from them – not in the country that’s supposed to be the land of the free and the brave. How are you free to stand there and go ‘You’re free, you’re free, but you? Nah, not free.’ You can’t do that. What is equality unless everyone is equal? Then what? What have you got? You got nothing! So of course I’m going to stand up and say something. I always will. If you’re standing next to me and you’re my friend and someone comes along and starts treating you bad – you think I’m gonna be quiet? No way.
How did you react to the marriage equality victory in the States?
I cried. Didn’t you? The world is changing. It’s opening. Well, some parts are open and some parts are closed, but hopefully it will open up and people will understand that there are all kinds of people. You can’t see somebody different and say ‘That’s evil, that’s terrible’ because you know what, if we all think like that the world will stop. The only way this world goes is to accept people’s differences and try and understand them. And understand yourself first. That’s one thing that’s in this show – accept yourself and you’ll accept others, too.
Words by SIMON BUTTON.
You can read our full interview with Cyndi in the current issue of Attitude, in shops now. Download the digital version of the mag from Pocketmags.com/Attitude or order the print version from newsstand.co.uk/Attitude.