Tony Award-winning musical “Kinky Boots” is strutting the Civic Center Music Hall stage for only eight performances Feb. 9-14.
“It is a story of acceptance,” performer Sam Dowling said. “We like to call it a ‘happiness machine.’ The audience goes crazy for it.”
Inspired by true events, “Kinky Boots” is a story about a man named Charlie Price who inherits his father’s shoe factory. Lola, a drag queen, helps Charlie save his family’s factory by needing a new pair of heels.
Dowling plays one of Lola’s angels in the show and said he enjoys getting to spread the message of acceptance across the nation to all types of different audiences.
“I saw it in New York City on Broadway,” senior Kendall Haliburton said. “The show carries a modern message about a drag queen learning to be true to himself in the midst of discrimination. The show is hilarious and very high energy. The audience was up on their feet several times throughout the show.”
“Kinky Boots” opened on Broadway in 2013 and won six Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Score (Cyndi Lauper), Best Choreography (Jerry Mitchell), Best Orchestrations (Stephen Oremus) and Best Sound Design (John Shivers). The show also received the Drama League, Outer Critics Circle and Broadway.com Awards for Best Musical and the Grammy Award for Best Musical Album, along with many other accolades.
“This show is different because I am playing a drag queen,” Dowling said. “That is something I never ever in my wildest dreams thought that I would do. That is a big aspect of it. The other thing is that I have never walked in heels, let alone dance in them. Now I do it eight shows a week and have gotten pretty good at it.”
According to senior Lane Wheeler, musical performances take a great deal of effort to perfect and the final product makes it all worth it in the end.
“I prefer musicals because I feel like they can be more entertaining to watch,” Wheeler said. “Who does not love a good song and dance number? On top of that, being someone who has done both plays and musicals, I think that a few more hours tend to go into producing a musical, which makes the performance so much more satisfying when you pull it off.”
While Wheeler said he likes the final performances of shows, he said that he prefers the rehearsal process.
“When it comes to the most fun thing of any production, a lot of people would think it is getting to show night and getting to perform in front of hundreds of people,” Wheeler said. “When that is a lot of fun, I typically find that the rehearsal process is way better than the performance. For every production that I have ever been a part of, I have always grown super close with the others in the cast, and that is my favorite thing.”
Both Wheeler and Haliburton have performed in Oklahoma Christian University productions, including musicals.
“I love musical theatre because through this medium of art, the actor and the audience member get to engage in an exchange of energy unlike any other,” Haliburton said. “Music allows for intimate moments in which the audience get to ‘get inside the head’ of another character for a brief moment.”
According to Wheeler, musicals are for everyone.
“Musicals are not just for theatre people,” Wheeler said. “They are not just for choir people. If you have ever wanted to do something rash and irresponsible, why not a musical? They are seriously worth it.”
Dowling attended Oklahoma City University, majored in musical theatre and performed in various productions while in school.
“Oklahoma City University was a very nurturing environment,” Dowling said. “Since it is in the Midwest, it was an environment that I was used to and I felt at home because I was only five hours away from home.”
Dowling said he used his time at Oklahoma City University to better himself before heading to New York to become a full-time performer.
“New York is a different beat,” Dowling said. “For some people, they are not ready for New York right out of high school. I knew I certainly was not. I needed the four years of development socially, educationally and to hone my skills as a performer before I could move there. Oklahoma City has incredible features and I really came into my own at that school vocally as a performer in general.”
This musical is recommended for ages 12 and older.