Kyle Taylor Parker has some mighty big heels to fill in the national tour of Kinky Boots. The part of Lola was originally played by Billy Porter (and, in this interview, Windy City Times found out about Parker's take on it).
The Broadway musical, based on the movie of the same name, was inspired by true events telling the story of Charlie Price, who inherits a shoe factory from his father. With a drag queen named Lola's help the two discover that teaming up can create a success, crossing over the lines of being gay and straight.
Parker brings a strong background into this production, having been in the musicals Hair and In the Heights. WCT dialed the lead performer up right before he arrived in Chicago.
Windy City Times: Hi, Kyle. Is your next stop on the Kinky Boots tour Chicago?
Kyle Taylor Parker: Yes; we are on break for a week then we go to Chicago.
WCT: You are originally from Milwaukee?
KTP: Yes. I'm excited to be back in the Midwest for the three weeks.
WCT: Did you always want to be in musicals from a young age?
KTP: I knew I wanted to be a Broadway performer from the time I was 5 years old. My mom always exposed us to the arts and theater. I remember seeing Annie and I knew I wanted to do that for a living. That was it. I have been in class from that age until now. It is a big dream come true that I actually get to do what I want to do.
WCT: You've received rave reviews for this role.
KTP: That is very kind, but I don't read them. I do appreciate the kindness.
WCT: Do you have a favorite musical?
KTP: I fall in love with all of them. I am the biggest theater geek I know.
WCT: How did you wind up filling in for Billy Porter in Kinky Boots?
KTP: It was unexpected and a surprise. I was already out on the road and Billy decided he needed three months off from the show because he had been doing it for so long, as the show now enters its third year. Jerry Mitchell felt it would be a really good choice since I understudied the part on Broadway, and I was doing so well along the road to go out and replace him for three months.
That was a wild adventure getting to meet Oprah Winfrey, who is a major hero of mine and a very influential woman on the Broadway stage. It doesn't get any better than that.
WCT: How is it filling Porter's shoes and making the Lola character your own?
KTP: I just decided to bring my own shoes and forget about his shoes, which are fabulous, but I have my own. I was completely supported by Harvey Fierstein, Cyndi Lauper and Jerry Mitchell to make the part my own when I was in the rehearsal room.
WCT: Chicago audiences know Kinky Boots from when the musical was here, but I heard it changed a lot in New York. Talk about the changes now that it is on the road.
KTP: I think the show has become even more concise. It is effective and so much fun. I think every change that we made between Chicago and Broadway to tell the story better and clearer. I think it was really fabulous before but now it is tighter and crisper.
WCT: Do you get star-struck being around Cyndi Lauper?
KTP: In the beginning, when we were rehearsing for Chicago, I definitely did, for an out-of-town tryout, but now it is so weird to find myself texting Cyndi or emailing Jerry. They are like my familymy aunt, my father and momma: Harvey.
WCT: What did your real family say when they saw it?
KTP: They have seen the show several times; being from the Midwest, they came out to Chicago. They have been on this journey with me throughout the show. As an understudy, when I first went on, everyone came out the show. I had 40 members of my family in the audience on Broadway. They had T-shirts that said, "KTP, This Is Step One."
When I got the part since I have family from all over its fun to go to every city and have someone in the house rooting for me.
WCT: What does Lola really want [taken from the song "What Lola Wants"]?
KTP: I would say complete acceptance, of self and from others. Lola realizes that everyone has a right to a fabulous life.
WCT: Perfect timing for this show, as the Supreme Court ruling just happened.
KTP: Absolutely. It is a new day!
WCT: How do you like the Beyonce Pride video?
KTP: I can't stop watching it. It is on loop. That is all I have been doing the last three days. I think my first show might be inspired by that when I get back to Chicago.
WCT: You better bring the Beyonce!
KTP: I will.
WCT: Do you have plans after the tour ends?
KTP: I will be back in New York City auditioning. I would like to do a play, a revival of a new show, some film and TV, so I will be working on that.
To keep up with me people can go to my website www.kyletaylorparker.com where there are updates and my video blog about the tour Kinky Nation is on there as well. You can watch all of our adventures from city to city on there. It is a lot of fun and keeps me out of the hotel!
Get Kinky at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph St., now playing through July 26. Visit broadwayinchicago.com or call 800-775-2000 for tickets.