Kinky Boots - London

Cyndi Lauper & Harvey Fierstein's Tony-winning musical crosses the pond!

London Kinky Boots Star Killian Donnelly on Leaving Memphis for a New Life in Heels

The sex will be in the heel as of this week at the Adelphi Theatre, where Kinky Boots is readying to open officially on September 15. The London production stars Matt Henry and Killian Donnelly in the roles originated on Broadway by Billy Porter and Stark Sands. Broadway.com talked to the ever-exuberant Donnelly about shifting gears from one Tony-winning musical (Memphis) to another, now that the Irishman who first shot to fame in The Commitments is playing Charlie Price.

How does it feel to jump from one Tony-winning musical to another?
I do kind of feel as if I’m on this wave that I can’t quite believe right now; I’m just trying to stay afloat.

Is it true you started rehearsals for Kinky Boots two days after finishing your run in Memphis?
I was very lucky the way it landed: I left one family on Saturday and was introduced to a new family on Monday.

Did you see Kinky Boots on Broadway?
Yes, but only as a punter. I was over in New York and thought I’d like to see it. It was incredible. I absolutely loved it.

When you were up for the part for London, did you consider returning to see the Broadway version again?
I did think of going back to see it but thought that if I did, I would start copying whereas what I wanted was to be influenced and inspired when I auditioned rather than just a carbon copy of what I had seen before. Then again, once we’re up and running in this show, I’d love to go over and have a look at what they’re doing.

When you saw the show, were you surprised by it in any way?
Very much so: I went along and was expecting a Hairspray or a Legally Blonde and went in knowing I was going to enjoy my night, but in fact I was blown away by how touching the story was. I had never heard of the movie and couldn’t believe that this British story wasn’t already in London. I think it’s going to take people completely by surprise.

What are the challenges of play Huey in Memphis vs. Charlie in Kinky Boots?
Charlie is unlike Huey in every single way! Huey was about hitting the ground running and being excited whereas Charlie is about being grounded and holding his own. Huey required me to be a bit quirky and have all that energy and with Charlie, it’s as if he’s the spine of the story—the support, if you will.

The differing demands from The Commitments and on to these two roles is not a bad thing since diversity is what every actor seems to crave.
Absolutely! At the end of the day, you want to walk into your next audition with them thinking, “Wow, what a contrast!” as opposed to, “that’s the part you always play.”

How are you adjusting to life in heels?
It’s strange but when I put them on for the first time, I was like a duck to water. I was actually all right on them. I was told to make sure that you lean on the balls of your feet, so I did that and everything was fine. I had never worn heels before but I was surprisingly OK.

Were you influenced in any way by the 2005 film on which the stage show is based?
I hadn’t actually seen it when the offer came up but I did catch 25 minutes on TV the other day and everyone says I look like Joel [Edgerton] who played Charlie in the movie. When I saw it, I thought, I can see the likeness there.

Has doing so footwear-oriented a show affected your own choice of shoes?
That’s a brilliant question. We were all in really tattered runners—or, as you would say, sneakers—when we were rehearsing and a week into rehearsals everyone started coming in with brand new ones: they were putting a lot of thought into what they wore on their feet.

After doing all these Broadway shows in London, would you like to do one on Broadway?
I’m so happy here but I’m always looking for the next step and what else is new. So I would never say no to Broadway. I adore New York.