Kinky Boots

By Richard Schultz, Sept. 11, 2014.

ASU Gammage’s 50th-anniversary season opens with Kinky Boots, winner of six Tony Awards, including best musical with an eclectic score by Cyndi Lauper, direction and choreography by Jerry Mitchell and an uplifting book by gay playwright and four-time Tony winner Harvey Fierstein.

Inspired by a true story, Kinky Boots follows a struggling shoe factory owner who works to turn his business around with help from Lola, a fabulous entertainer in need of some sturdy stilettos.

Together, this unlikely pair finds that they have more in common than they ever dreamed possible. The show’s message is simple: When you change your mind about someone, you can change your whole world.

Cast member Juan Torres-Falcon knew the first time he saw this musical that he was destined to part of this high-energy production.

“The first time I saw it I said to myself, ‘this is just so me,’” he said, and ended up seeing the show five more times.

Torres-Falcon grew up in a Cuban family in Miami and feels connected to both his heritage and musicals.

“The musical theatre just always felt like home,” he said. “My mother and aunt played a lot of Streisand. Her music was my first exposure to music that told a story and I’ve been utterly hooked ever since. Music makes it easier to say things.”

Torres-Falcon started performing at a young age and eventually went graduated from NYU. Kinky Boots is his second national tour.

“I was on tour with West Side Story, in which I played Chino, the quiet and shy Puerto Rican shark that kills Tony to avenge Bernardo’s death,” he said, admitting Kinky Boots “couldn’t be more different in tone or content from West Side Story.”

Rehearsals for the tour, which opened Sept. 6 in Las Vegas, have been intense.

“We rehearse six days a week from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. We spent two days learning Cyndi Lauper’s amazing music before we started staging and learning the choreography. Rehearsals have been so fulfilling because the cast is just so talented. Everyone has brought their A-game.”

The cast also had the opportunity to meet and share inspiration from Lauper and Mitchell.

“On our first day of rehearsal, Cyndi and Jerry spoke to us about what the show meant to them and briefly discussed the journey of the show from its inception,” he said. “Cyndi spoke about how, if we ever got lost and forgot what it was all about, we could find it right there in the music and in the rhythms. She told us to sing from the heart.”

Torres-Falcon plays one the angels, who are actually six drag queens that help Lola.

“For us as angels, we kick, we split, we sing and we wear the fiercest costumes,” he said. “We do it all in the sexiest shoes I’ve ever seen — stilettos that make my heart flutter. At the end of the day, my poor tootsies are screaming, but I love the heels.”

His passion for the show is quite evident; yet, he already dreams of future roles.

“My dream role is definitely Usnavi, in the musical In the Heights. I love the idea of telling a Hispanic story in the musical theatre,” he said. “And Dolly Levi in Hello, Dolly because, before I leave this earth, I must sing ‘Before the Parade Passes By’ with a follow spot wearing hoop skirt.”

As part of his preparation for each performance, he selects a new song each week to get him in the mood.

“It helps me feel the fantasy. I usually post them in a clip on Instagram (@juantf) so people can follow,” he said. “I will be sure to pick a great one for Phoenix! You need something fabulous to pump up in the dressing room and dance around with the gals in the cast. I think CeCe Peniston may be in order for the performances at Gammage.”

This will be his first visit to Phoenix and, while in town, he plans to hit the Desert Botanical Gardens and get a feel for the nightlife.

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