Cyndi Lauper Says 'Kinky Boots' Offers Hope for a New Time

by Mark Kennedy

Associated Press

Tuesday July 26, 2022

Cyndi Lauper
Cyndi Lauper  (Source:Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)

Three years after it closed on Broadway, the musical "Kinky Boots" returns to New York City. The show may not have changed, but the country has.

The Cyndi Lauper- and Harvey Fierstein-created musical landed on Broadway in 2013 in the middle of the Obama administration, a big hug of acceptance, tolerance and love. It reappears off-Broadway now at Stage 42 as same-sex gains and privacy rights seem under threat.

The Tony- and Olivier-winning musical is about a staid British shoe factory on the brink of ruin that retrofits itself into a maker of footwear for drag queens and embraces its queerness.

Lauper, whose hits include "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" and "Time After Time," has long been an advocate for the LGBTQ community, starting the nonprofit advocacy organization that would become True Colors United in 2008. She also backs abortion rights and just reworked her 1993 song "Sally's Pigeons," which she wrote about a friend who died from a botched abortion.

The Associated Press asked her about the return of "Kinky Boots," so-called cancel culture and the role of artists now that rights are being rolled back. Responses have been edited for brevity and clarity.

AP: What were your thoughts about bringing "Kinky Boots" back to New York?

LAUPER: I wasn't keen on putting it off-Broadway, but when everyone explained how they felt and what they missed and what was going on, I understood that it's just a place where people could watch a show where not just one person evolves, but everyone evolves.

AP: It does offer a big wet kiss to theatergoers.

LAUPER: I just think it's a wonderful experience and it's inclusive. And, to me, that makes everything a little richer. You know, I never even liked one kind of music. I like music that's exposed to everything. Like cooking. I don't have a bland palate.

AP: Has it stood up?

LAUPER: I could go in there in a bad mood and it just makes me feel better. And I start laughing. It's just good. It has redemption. It's a story that has redemption. And that's the most important thing. You need to give people hope. You can't take people's hope away.

AP: "Kinky Boots" is all about acceptance and reaching out. Do you worry about the tone of the country now that many seem to be opposed to that sentiment?

LAUPER: Who died and left them in charge of everything? Well, I'll tell you: If you didn't vote, you left them in charge. As soon as you didn't vote, they're in charge. They're changing the laws.

AP: Why did you release a new version of "Sally's Pigeons"?

LAUPER: Because I think that we have forgotten what it was like when "Sally's Pigeons" was a common story. Not a lot of people remember that because they didn't live that.

AP: Do you think the right represents the wishes of most Americans?

LAUPER: In my mind and in my heart, and in the people I have sung to all around this country, Americans are mostly fair-minded people. We have been put to the test with this COVID thing. We had been put to the test with finances. But do you really want to lose your democracy?

AP: What can regular people do?

LAUPER: This is what I think: Information is power. Knowledge is power. It's like when I want to find out what the news is, I don't watch one thing. I even try and watch a foreign news station so that I could get what other people looking at my country are saying. I learned that the minute I started traveling outside the country to work.

AP: What do artists do now?

LAUPER: You have to share your stories, and you have to understand that as you want people to listen to you, you've got to listen to what they're saying, too. And then you've got to understand their humanity.

AP: You've mentioned before that you're not a fan of so-called cancel culture. Why?

LAUPER: It's an opportunity when people make a mistake or you don't say the right thing, that you can understand because someone else shares their story and you share yours, and you understand. Your understanding changes. Then people can evolve. Therefore as a country, we can evolve. We can. We can make it better.

AP: So we should keep sharing, keep talking?

LAUPER: Look, sometimes the person you work with for 12 hours a day, they have a different life experience and maybe you share your story together, you can both evolve, right? You can evolve together. And that's what it should be, that we can evolve — not cancel each other.

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