Kyle Taylor Parker as Lola

Kinky Bootsis the ultimate odd couple show. Charlie Price inherits his father’s failing shoe company, and Lola is a fabulous drag queen in need of some sturdy stilettos—and both have daddy issues. Match made in heaven? After a couple hours of Cyndi Lauper–penned songs, absolutely.

Kinky Boots is one of the hottest musicals to premiere on Broadway in recent years, going on to win six Tony’s, and Portland is only the third stop on the national tour. We got Kyle Taylor Parker, who plays Lola, on the phone to give us the lowdown. He has been with the production since it was in development in Chicago, originally playing one of Lola’s back-up drag queens. As the Lola understudy on Broadway, he stepped into her shoes a number of times when Billy Porter was out. And now he gets to play her front and center.


On the Town: Let’s get to the point: how do you describe the boots?
Kyle Taylor Parker:
The boots are the true star of the show. They are shiny patent leather. They are custom made for each member in the company. So it is a bit better than trying to stick your hooves into a Nine West shoe. They’re sturdy and they’re six inches high.

Divas vs. Drag Dueens
We size up Kinky Boots with local productions of Dreamgirls at Portland Center Stage and La Cage Aux Folles at the Newmark: who has the most boots, wigs, costume changes, and fake eyelashes.

Plus, enter to win a pair of tickets to the two local productions.
How many do you have over the course of the show?
I wear a different shoe in each scene. That’s probably 10 shoes if not more.

What was it like to learn to dance in them?
It was a lot of fun because, often when you’re working on the play, you’re on such a deadline that you’re rushing to learn lines and blocking. With this you had to learn how to walk like Lola before you could learn how to talk like Lola. So I got all my girlfriends together to teach me how to walk in heels and how to dance in heels. And then eventually I started to put my own little attitude into it.

Had you done drag before?
Never.

How is it different from performing as traditional male characters.
I think as actor it’s the same. Kinky Boots is not a drag show. It’s a play about people who are faced with real issues. So I’m fortunate to play this completely rounded individual, who is a drag queen, but that’s not where the conversation ends. It’s been a gift as an actor to play a character so full of life.

Have there been any big costume fails or disaster stories?
No, knocking on wood. We’ve had a few broken heels, but that’s not that bad. No broken ankles. 

What was the high point of performing on Broadway?
I made my Broadway debut with the show. Also performing on the Tony’s and watching my friends and colleagues win Tony Awards, and being a part of something. When a show wins a Tony, it’s not just the producers and the director and writer, it really is a collaborative process. So to be able to say you’re part of that original Tony-winning company is such an honor.

Kinky Boots
Keller Auditorium
Oct 1–5
I read it played at the same theater where you fell in love with Broadway as a kid?
Yes it is. I saw my first Broadway show at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre, back then it was called the Martin Beck. That show was Annie. How wonderful is that that I made my Broadway debut on the same stage.

Was seeing that show what made you fall in love with Broadway?
Yes it was. I don’t know if it was seeing other kids on stage, that inspired me, or if it was the music. Right after that show I told my mom that’s what I wanted to do and got into class the next week.

You’ve gone from Chicago to New York, and then with the tour from Vegas to Tempe, Arizona. Has there been a noticeable difference in the audience reactions?
I think the laughs are always in different places because each city has a different sense of humor, but the end result is always the same, which is pure and utter joy. 

Lola and her Angels dressing up Charlie Price

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