UPDATED: Kinky Boots comes to The Gateway
“Kinky Boots” may have closed on Broadway, but it’s coming to The Gateway this season on its 70th anniversary.
Negotiations to bring the smash musical to The Gateway after its six-year run ended on April 7 at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre started last year, before the 2018 season was set, said Gateway artistic director Paul Allan.
“Most of the conversations were through phone calls and conference calls,” he explained of his deal with Music Theatre International, one of the world’s leading theatrical licensing agencies. “There are always a lot of issues, because not only is there its run on Broadway, but the national tour blocks out certain theatres for performances. I think we got it because it’s not scheduled to play near us. If the timing didn’t work, we wouldn’t be able to do it for a couple of years.”
“Kinky Boots,” the 2013 Tony Award winner for best musical (it won a total of six that year), will be performed Aug. 28 to Sept. 14 at Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts. Music and lyrics are by Cyndi Lauper, book by Harvey Firestone. It is inspired by true events.
The story revolves around Charlie Price, who inherits a shoe factory from his father. To help save the business, he teams up with a cabaret performer and drag queen, Lola, to produce high-heel boots, and the unlikely partners find they aren’t so different. The musical is based on the 2005 British film.
The deal required Allan and his staff to keep mum about the announcement two months before the musical’s Broadway end run as part of the agreement, a tough gamble, especially since getting out their renewals to patrons for the 2019 season was a priority.
“They were OK with not knowing what the last show was,” Allan said. “They want to see what we can do.”
Gateway’s casting and acting school director Michael Baker said open calls for their announced shows started in February; they would start casting for “Kinky Boots” immediately.
It was a definite coup and a first for the venerable regional theater known for its musicals, said vice president of development and public relations Scot Allan.
“There were a couple of other theaters vying for it,” he admitted. “We’re the first to get it on Long Island and one of the first in the country.”
“Hopefully someone will be from the Broadway show, “ said Baker. “No offers have been given, so we don’t know. It’s not unusual to segue from Broadway to here, because actors love coming to Bellport and the Gateway for five weeks.”
Gateway’s season will start with “On Your Feet! The Story of Emilio & Gloria Estefan” (May 8-25); “Forbidden Broadway” (June 5-22); “The Bodyguard The Musical” (July 3-20); “The Sound of Music” (July 31-Aug. 17), all at The Gateway Playhouse. “Kinky Boots” will end the summer season at Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts. For kids, “Disney Frozen Jr.” (Aug. 9-24), “Disney Aladdin Jr.” (July 12-20) and “Elf The Musical” (Dec. 20-29) are among the Children’s Theatre shows.
“Gloria and Emilio Estefan were the first crossovers from Latin music to pop, and we’re really excited about ‘The Bodyguard The Musical,’” Scot Allan said. “It never had a run in the U.S. and first played in London’s West End. People know and love the music and Whitney Houston from the movie. And ‘Kinky Boots’ has had a roster of great stars attached to it.”
Allan said while “Kinky Boots” was a first from Broadway, Gateway was the first to introduce regional premieres of “Rock of Ages” and “Priscilla Queen of the Desert.”
Surprisingly, “The Sound of Music” was a tough show to snare. “It’s still a valuable property and was difficult to get the rights to because someone always wants the show,” he said. “It was one of the first recent musicals on television with Carrie Underwood. It’s a beautiful story but not an easy one with World War II and the Nazis, but it’s still a lovely story parents want to share with their kids.”
The process for casting
Michael Baker was sitting before his computer screening actors’ resumes. “We put out a breakdown call of the characters we’re looking for to agents,” Baker explained. “Then they submit those clients. You look at their headshots and credits. Then we make appointments for auditions.”
Baker said they see close to 300 actors per production.
“We have to do the required union calls first, so we set those up,” he said. “They are union approved. We get to the rehearsal space at 9:30 a.m., but some actors start lining up at 6:30 a.m.”
Then there are the open calls that get broken down to include just principals.
“One time, 500 women and 200 guys came,” he recalled. “We have to ‘type’ those we want to see. But on average we see 120 a day. We can pick 10 to 20 and ask them to come back for appointment calls and there can be open calls for dancers that sing and open calls for just dancers.”
When you get a callback
“At first it may be, ‘sing 32 bars and recite some lines,’” he explained. “Then we may ask you to come back and sing for the casting director. You may get a callback to sing and dance. The final callback may take 10 to 15 minutes. Sometimes it’s six or eight times.” Generally, it takes three to five days in New York City to find the cast per show, utilizing professional rehearsal studios like Pearl Studios and Ripley-Grier Studios.
Baker casts not only from New York City but from Chicago and Los Angeles as well.
And there are those times when you think you have your lead, and have everyone else in place. “But someone we want already got a leading role from someone else, so it may go back and forth for a month.”
Scot Allan said there’s also handling a show’s diversity factor. “With a show like “On Your Feet!” there aren’t as many key Latino actors who are Cuban-Americans, whereas with ‘The Sound of Music,’ there are hundreds of Marias.”
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