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‘Kinky Boots’ Struts Into Wilkes-Barre For Two Performances

April 3, 2019

As Broadway says goodbye to “Kinky Boots,” Wilkes-Barre says hello.

The Tony Award-winning musical closes for good in New York City on Sunday, April 7, but local theatergoers can catch the show that day when it comes to F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts, 71 Public Square, with shows at 1:30 and 7 p.m.

Based on a 2005 film of the same name that, in turn, was inspired by a true story, the musical focuses on a young Englishman, Charlie Price, who inherits a bankrupt shoe factory from his father. As Charlie tries to save the business, he teams up with a London drag queen, Lola, in need of some unique stilettos.

“It’s so much fun to work with these two actors,” said Kelsee Sweigard, who plays Pat, who tries to steer Charlie in the right direction as the factory’s office manager. “These two leading men are absolutely incredible.”

Born and raised in Harrisburg and now living in New York, Sweigard came to the tour quite familiar with the show when she joined the cast in December. She’d seen “Kinky Boots” on Broadway and again when a previous tour stopped in Hershey, recalling how she turned to her mom afterward and told her, “I can do this.”

“About six weeks later, I had my first audition for it,” Sweigard said, adding that the musical “was dream show” for her.

“Kinky Boots” debuted on Broadway in 2013 and took home six Tony Awards, including best musical and best original score for Cyndi Lauper, who wrote the music and lyrics. The show also features a book by the legendary Harvey Fierstein.

“You can definitely hear Cyndi Lauper’s voice — her songwriter voice — in the music,” Sweigard said. “She also tries to emulate other pop/rock icons with her songwriting, so you might be listening to one song and think, ’Oh, this sounds like it could have been a Beatles tune. … Even though it’s a Broadway, show when Cyndi Lauper sat down to pen it, she didn’t write it like it was a traditional Broadway (musical).”

One of the most popular parts of the show are the “Angels,” a group of drag queens, Sweigard said.

“People go nuts for them,” she added. “They do such an incredible job. They’re always smiling. They’re always having a good time, so you can’t help but smile when you’re watching them.”

The show’s flashy, fun finale garners a big response from audiences, too, Sweigard noted, hinting at “a big redemption moment” that brings out a lot of joy in the cast and audience alike. And, it lets a big chunk of the cast don the namesake “kinky boots” — thigh-high patent leather boots with six-inch heels, many of which, including Sweigard’s, are custom made.

“In a sense, the boots themselves are the star of the show,” she said. “The men ... who aren’t playing the Angels — the big, burly factory workers — even they’re in them at the end. It’s kind of fun to watch them stomp around the stage in these.”

Sweigard looks forward to bringing the show to her home state — the tour also will stop in Shippensburg, Easton and State College this month — and expects lots of family to come out to see her.

“It’s going to be so much fun,” she said.

The tour schedule keeps the cast and crew busy, but Sweigard said they look forward to putting on the show every night.

“Sharing the show across the country is just the greatest gift that the cast and I have ever experienced,” she said.

Sweigard called it a story that shares a timeless message about not judging a book by its cover.

“My favorite line from the show is ‘You change the world when you change the mind,’ which is sort of like the show’s mantra. ... Walking through life with an open mind is sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself,” she said.

Contact the writer:

cwest@timesshamrock.com; 570-348-9100 x5107;

@cheaneywest on Twitter

If you go

What: “Kinky Boots”

When: Sunday, April 7, 1:30 and 7 p.m.

Where: F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts, 71 Public Square, Wilkes-Barre

Details: Tickets cost $45, $55 and $65, plus fees,

and are available at the box office, 570-826-1100

and kirbycenter.org.

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