Based on the 2005 hit screenplay by Tim Firth, the musical which first opened on Broadway in 2012 has become a worldwide sensation receiving an incredible 13 Tony Award nominations, winning 6 including Best Musical and Best Score. In 2016 following it’s West End premiere the awards kept on coming with an incredible three highly prized Olivier Award wins.
After an incredible opening night at Manchester’s Opera House, earning 5 star reviews across the board and receiving one of the most enthusiastic standing ovations we have EVER seen, we were lucky enough to catch up with Kinky Boots stars, Callum Francis who plays Lola, Joel Harper-Jackson who plays Charlie and Paula Lane who takes on the role of Lauren.
Opening Night: With all three of you having connections to Manchester how did last nights opening night feel for you?
Paula: I’ll be honest I felt a little more nervous than usual last night, I’d said to Helen who plays Nicola, “You’re gonna have to give me a little pep talk just before the show” and she did and was great, some really wise words which really helped and then once I came on stage the love we got back from the audience was just unbelievable.
Callum: It was another level last night it really was.
Joel: I don’t well ever forget the reaction from Manchester, we all had friends and family in last night and the energy was just the best, it was incredible.
Callum: We’ve all been so excited to get to Manchester, it’s been so brilliant in all the other cities we’ve been to and now we’re here in Manchester we just all feel so lucky.
ON: This is such a well loved show, is there a pressure in delivering the first ever UK tour?
Callum: Yes, I would say so but then I do feel that doing this show anywhere comes with a lot of pressure, the incredible message of acceptance is more than just playing a part in a show it’s a reponsibility, people comes and soon realise it’s much more than just a show. People are really learning something as well as having a great time. I think anywhere you do it be it the first tour, be it in the West End, the responsibility is still massive. There are some incredible fans out there, there’s one fan in particular who saw me in London, she travelled to Australia, she’s already been to three venues on this tour and is coming to Broadway to see the show, so you also want to get it absolutely right for those committed fans, old and new.
Paula: I actually see it slightly different in a sense as it’s a show which has won so many awards and clearly is a fantastic musical the mould is already there so we’re all already onto a winner, it can’t not be great because it’s such an incredible show to be involved in, it’s an honour.
Callum: This show has taken over the world, it might be coming to an end in certain places but there’s something about it that will be talked about forever. The show itself is an absolute legend along with the legends who put it together, it’s a brilliantly made show, brilliantly written with brilliant music, it’s just taken over.
ON: Do you think the message of inclusivity is key to the success of Kinky Boots?
Callum: Yes I think so 100%, it’s still needed, the message of acceptance is still one that needs to be pushed.
Joel: We’ve come on a massive way, but there is still such a way to go, massively. Any person who comes along to the show who maybe has been dragged along by their wife and doesn’t really want to go, they are the people who need to hear this message and incredibly they are always the people who are up on their feet at the end of the show.
Callum: I had an audience in Melbourne where I was booed constantly, a lot of rugby guys in the audience who took the show to be more like a pantomime, they cheered for Don, absolutely loved Don and at the interval the rest of the cast were all checking if I was ok, and I told them all I was absolutely fine as I know how this show works and how different parts affect the audience and after Not My Fathers Son it changed and they were the ones up on their feet, cheering and then even went round to stage door asking for pictures, I literally saw a group of men completely change their minds in front of me, it was amazing and I had no doubt that that would happen by the end.
Paula: There was a stand out moment for me on our first night here in Manchester and I caught the eye of a young boy in the audience, aged maybe about 10 and his face at the end was just beaming. I think hearing that positive message of acceptance when you are so young is exactly what needs to happen.
ON: It’s such an uplifting, high-energy show, we literally left the theatre beaming and that was just watching, how do you come down after such an energetic performance?
Callum: From an energy point of view we put so much into the show that we are tired at the end of the day which of course helps with relaxing afterwards.
Joel: I was so tired after last nights show but I just couldn’t switch off once I did go to bed, it was just such a buzz.
Paula: It’s really hard to come down but I’ve got two children who I need to FaceTime at a reasonable hour as they don’t understand working late and different bodyclocks, if they get up at 6am they get up at 6am.
Callum: When I was the understudy in London I actually used to bake when I got home. I used to get in, make something, pop it in the oven then go and shower and by the time it was done that had relaxed me and I’d then decorate what I’d baked in the morning.
Paula: Can you start baking again now?
Callum: Ha ha if I did it now you’d find I’m so exhausted you’d find my watch or something would be in it or my rings, glitter you name it ha ha.
ON: Callum, you have some incredibly quick changes as you change from Lola to Simon, what’s your secret?
Callum: Lint rollers gets glitter it off brilliantly. All of my changes are quick changes, I stand in the wing just before the alleyway scene, holding my bag and I’m like ‘ok, here we go, I’m about to begin and then I’ll stop in about 2 hours’ it’s so much fun though we all have such a laugh. During Everybody Say Yeah last night I caught both Paula and Joel’s eyes and it just felt so so good. The energy you put in you get back ten fold.
ON: The show features themes of family and acceptance, were your families always supportive of your career choices?
Joel: Not always, my Dad was builder with his own building company and similar to Charlie really my Dad wanted me to work with him and I was studying drama and he would tell me not to pursue anything in drama because it was too hard but thanks goodness I had my biggest fan who is my Mum who would say “Don’t you listen to your Dad you can do this”. But yesterday really was amazing as he said to me at the end of the show “I am so proud of you”.
Callum: He said that to me too, not about me ha ha but about Joel, he turned to me and said “You think he’s good don’t you? And I said yes I do and he said, yes so do I”.
Joel: Callum’s Dad is so proud of him too, he said back in the day Callum would go to parties when he was a child and he wouldn’t want to stay and socialise but last night he he said “And now look at my boy”.
Callum: I’m so lucky I’ve been so brilliantly supported, I’m the youngest of five boys and my Grandparents, my Mum and Dad from day 1 have supported me. In 2004 I watched a show at the Palace theatre and thought to myself I think I could do that and within the year I got everything ready to move away, my Dad helped and said we’ll find the money and do whatever we need to do. He’s always been my champion. He’s absolutely desperate and I haven’t mentioned this to any of the producers but he’s desperate to be the Dad in the chair after Hold Me In Your Heart.
Joel: Oh yes how amazing would that be! I’m telling them, that would be so incredible.
Callum: My Grandad is 81 and his background on his phone is me in the red dress, he’s brilliant. I’ve been so extremely lucky.
Paula: I’m lucky too, my Mum is a nurse and I’d told her that’s what I had decided I was going to do and she said “look you can do that anytime I really want you to try and pursue this”. She’s seen me go from high to low, she’s seen me in some really dark places and then it just comes right. My husband is equally supportive and often says “Something will always turn up” and you have to have that belief in yourself.
Callum: You absolutely have to have that belief, even though it’s an amazing industry and we’re loving life right now it can be an extremely lonely one at the same time. But, I would absolutely still do it, even knowing how hard and how lonely it can be I would still do it.
Joel: The highs really make up for it.
ON: Now about those boots….!
Callum: The blue heels are the hardest, Jerry the director and choreographer didn’t want any stilettos in the show until the finale apart from my blue ones because I’m teaching Charlie and the factory gang about stillettos, they had to be the 6 inch stiletto. But, because they are ankle boots they don’t have the full support of the full leg boots we wear at the finale so it is a challenge.
Paula: Due to timing/quick change I get the red shoes but they too are so hard to dance in, the amount of surface area on the floor is tiny. When Charlie spins me round I have to be careful I don’t just keep on spinning, one day if I’m a bit egar everyone’s gonna be looking saying ‘yep she’s still going!’ but at least I can style it out as ditzy Lauren.
Callum: The two hardest dance numbers have the hardest shoes to wear ha ha. Joel on the other hand was an absolute natural! He put them on and it was like he’d literally been born to wear then.
Joel: It was actually harder to look like I couldn’t walk in them. The falling over part is the biggest challenge to make it look realistic as I was so comfortable in them from the start!
ON: Finally Callum we have to ask you how did you feel when you got the call about Broadway?
Callum: It’s an absolute dream come true, it’s so strange to be able to talk about it now. I’ve actually known since February and now the news is finally out, it feels incredible. I’ll be getting to make my Broadway debut with a part that has changed my life completely, it’s amazing I am so so lucky.
And we’re lucky enough to have the show in Manchester for a limited 3 week run. You can catch Kinky Boots at the Opera House until Saturday 1st December and take advantage of a final opportunity to catch Callum Francis as Lola before he heads off to Broadway. Tickets available here.