A press photo for Out Front Theatre’s “Kinky Boots.”

“Kinky Boots” is opening at Out Front Theatre this weekend, marking the first time the musical has been produced locally in Georgia. 

The musical opens tonight, Oct. 20, and will run through Nov. 5. “Kinky Boots,” with a book by Harvey Firestein and music and lyrics by Cyndi Lauper, is inspired by true events and tells the story of Charlie Price, a shoe factory owner who forms a partnership with a drag queen named Lola to produce a line of boots to try and save the factory. 

Out Front is not only the first theater to produce the show locally, but also the first LGBTQIA+ theater in the country to do so, said Out Front’s Founder and Producing Artistic Director Paul Conroy. He said once Out Front heard rumors the show was going to become available, they prepared to jump on the opportunity. 

“As an LGBTQ focused theater, the musicals that we can do are really limited in number,” said Conroy, who is also directing the production. “It doesn’t make sense to produce West Side Story.” 

The cast includes 23 members and five swings – the biggest Out Front has ever had, said Conroy. Most of the cast has never worked with Out Front before, including the show’s two leads, Wendell Scott as Lola and Dustin Presley as Charlie. When the theater held auditions in the spring, close to 100 people showed up for the open call.

“That says a lot about the show too, and the desire of people to be in the show,” Conroy said. “We have already sold out our opening weekend, and that has never happened to us.”

Having a big cast can be daunting, but Conroy said the connection between the group has surprised him with its effortlessness. Out Front Theatre was named as a Grand Marshal for Atlanta Pride, complete with a float in the parade and a performance from the cast on the main stage. 

“It was like everyone had been best friends for the past couple decades, but they’ve only been working together for a month,” Conroy said. “So it’s been a complete joy. Now, buying all of those boots in different sizes for everyone to get, that’s been a challenge. But that’s my costume designer’s issue, not mine.” 

“Kinky Boots” premiered on Broadway in 2013, starring Billy Porter and Stark Sands in a production directed and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell. The show’s glittering optimism took Broadway by storm – it earned 13 Tony Award nominations and took home six, including Best Musical. Since then, the show has continued to evolve as the world has, and is currently running Off Broadway at Stage 42. 

“Things have changed in the script to address trans, nonbinary, all sorts of expressions of sexuality and also how people identify,” said Mitchell in an interview with Reporter Newspapers. “That’s been part of the learning process with the show.” 

Mitchell and Conroy both talked about the evolving nature of live theater, and how no matter what shape or size “Kinky Boots” comes in, the message of acceptance stays the same. 

“[Mitchell] and I have the same source material, but with very different spaces and very different budgets and all of that,” Conroy said. “But the message of the show and the heart of the show is what stays the same.” 

Conroy said he thinks the sold out opening weekend and huge turnout prove that audiences are looking for happiness in their art. 

“I think audiences are hungry for a show like this,” Conroy said. “They want happiness, they want sparkles, they want good music, they want a touching story. This is not the time for depressing, heavy shows. It’s important to use theater as a tool to think and to educate … sometimes you just want to escape.”  

Mitchell agreed, and added that what’s great about “Kinky Boots” is it can educate and entertain simultaneously. 

“That’s what’s really special, is when theater can entertain you and still leave you with something to think about,” Mitchell said. 

The first weekend of “Kinky Boots” is sold out, but tickets can be bought here.

Sammie Purcell

Sammie Purcell is a staff writer for Reporter Newspapers.