HomeEntertainment‘Kinky Boots’ is now on stage at Bucks County Playhouse

‘Kinky Boots’ is now on stage at Bucks County Playhouse

Richard E. Waits, who portrays drag queen Lola, shares details about the musical, including the iconic wardrobe

Role of a lifetime: Richard E. Waits stars as drag queen Lola in ‘Kinky Boots,’ on stage at the Bucks County Playhouse through July 30. Source: D’Ambrose Boyd Photography

Richard E. Waits, a 40-year theater veteran, thought he was going to have an easy summer.

Fresh off from appearing in Star of Freedom at Connecticut’s Ivoryton Playhouse, Waits was scheduled to portray office manager George in Bucks County Playhouse’s current production of Kinky Boots. After the more demanding role, for which he was nominated by the Connecticut Critics Circle for an award, he was excited to unwind and explore New Hope in his spare time.

However, there was a slight change of plans.

When patrons head to the Playhouse through July 30, they’ll see David LaMarr (Jersey Boys national tour) as George, and Waits in the extravagant, starring role of Lola, the fierce leader of a drag queen posse.

“There’s no exploring New Hope,” Waits told The Times with a laugh. “Those plans are shot, but it’s well worth it.”

Kinky Boots, the second offering in the Playhouse’s mainstage season, is the theater’s largest musical since Mamma Mia! in 2019 prior to the COVID-19 shutdown. Waits is thrilled to be part of such a momentous occasion for not only the Playhouse, but also the character of Lola. Typically, she’s played by a somewhat younger actor. Yet for this production, the creative team was inspired by the original movie, which stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, to cast someone a bit older.

“I think a mature actor of a certain age in the role really adds to the role. It gives Lola more depth, understanding and life,” said Waits, who got his start in showbiz at the age of 18, when he appeared in a TV commercial alongside the legendary Ginger Rogers. “It’s more compelling at a certain age. The stakes are higher.”

Waits described Lola as “funny, volatile and emotional,” adding, “You get to do everything you want to do in this part. There’s beautiful ballads, Cyndi Lauper dance tunes. All the stops are pulled out.”

Original songs by Lauper, such as “Land of Lola” and the brand new “So Long Charlie,” which the artist gave the Playhouse permission to use, are the soundtrack to the story of Lola and Charlie Price, played by Jimmy Brewer (Off Broadway’s Scotland, Pa).

A fresh melody: ‘Kinky Boots’ features original music by Cyndi Lauper, including the brand new song ‘So Long Charlie,’ which she gave the Playhouse permission to use. Source: Joan Marcus

When Charlie is tasked with saving his late father’s struggling shoe factory, it finds new life after he discovers an unlikely clientele – drag queens. Given their larger stature and endless hours performing, women’s high heels don’t last very long. Charlie’s factory, which specializes in men’s footwear, is able to design and produce a much sturdier option with the help of Lola.

In the show, Waits has the pleasure (and pain) of donning the iconic pair of bright red heeled boots. When asked how difficult it was adjusting to the shoes, especially during choreographed numbers, Waits admitted that, several performances in, he’s still adjusting. As soon as he takes that final bow after the finale “Raise You Up/Just Be,” he wastes no time in ridding himself of the heels.

“As soon as I’m in the wings, I’m like, ‘Get these boots off me!,’ before I even get to the dressing room,” he said. “How does that work, ladies? My God!”

With such a massive role on his plate so unexpectedly, Waits praised Brewer and his other co-stars for helping him be his best self on stage.

“They’re holding me up. They’re pushing me to stand in the right spot,” he said. “They’re so supportive, so talented. No man is an island.”

He also praised the creative work of co-directors Sheryl Kaller (Broadway’s Mothers and Sons and the Playhouse’s Other Desert Cities), who is a Playhouse artistic associate, and Hope Boykin (Alvin Ailey Dance Company and Philadanco), who also serves as choreographer.

According to Waits, Kaller was able to strategically visualize all aspects of the show in her head, while Boykin brought a non-traditional Broadway dance style. Rather than typical counts of 1-2-3-4, she choreographed to a beat of five. This, said Waits, adds to the “uniqueness and kind of quirkiness” of the show and keeps the cast on their toes.

For those who attend Kinky Boots, Waits hopes his character of Lola helps theater-goers leave the Playhouse with one core message – acceptance. After experiencing rejection by her father, Lola, the alter ego of Simon, must learn how to love herself and her passion.

“She had to develop skills to deal with life. And so with those skills, she’s learned to see people before they see themselves, and what they need and what they want. And in return, that’s helping her,” said Waits. “Breathe, relax and be yourself. Everyone else is already taken. There’s nothing wrong with you. It’s such a positive message. Just be yourself, whoever that may be. And leave people alone.”

Kinky Boots is playing the following schedule: Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m., Wednesdays at 2 p.m., Thursdays at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets start at $70. Special rates for groups of 10 or more. Season ticket packages are still available. Visit BucksCountyPlayhouse.org or call 215-862-2121 for more information. Bucks County Playhouse is located at 70 S. Main St. in New Hope.

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com

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