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Interview: Richard E. Waits & Jimmy Brewer Talk 'Lola' & 'Charlie' in Reimagined KINKY BOOTS at Bucks County Playhouse

Interview: Richard E. Waits & Jimmy Brewer Talk 'Lola' & 'Charlie' in Reimagined KINKY BOOTS at Bucks County Playhouse

The BCP production features an additional new song, "So Long Charlie," that Lauper wrote, but was not used in the original Broadway production.

Bucks County Playhouse is currently continuing its homecoming season with an all-new production of Kinky Boots, running through July 30. The production is co-directed by Playhouse Artistic Associate Sheryl Kaller (Broadway's "Mothers and Sons" and the Playhouse's "Other Desert Cities") and Hope Boykin (Alvin Ailey Dance Company and Philadanco) and choreographed by Boykin.

Kinky Boots features music and lyrics by Grammy and Tony winning composer Cyndi Lauper, and a book by Tony-winner Harvey Fierstein, and Bucks County Playhouse's production features an additional new song, "So Long Charlie," that Lauper wrote, but was not used in the original Broadway production.

Richard E. Waits (Mama Rose at LaMaMa) leads the cast as Lola with Jimmy Brewer (Off-Broadway, "Scotland, Pa") as Charlie. The production also features Scarlett Walker (Broadway's Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Carousel") as Lauren, Mikaela Nina Secada (Kennedy Center's "Beastgirl") as Nicola, Michael Thatcher ("The Play That Goes Wrong") as Don, and David LaMarr ("Jersey Boys" National Tour) as George.

BroadwayWorld spoke with Waits and Brewer about the magic of Kinky Boots, their favorite parts about Lola and Charlie, performing at the historic Bucks County Playhouse, and more!


Can you both tell me about who you play and how it feels to be starring in Kinky Boots at Bucks County Playhouse?

Interview: Richard E. Waits & Jimmy Brewer Talk 'Lola' & 'Charlie' in Reimagined KINKY BOOTS at Bucks County Playhouse Jimmy: I'm playing Charlie Price. He actually feels very close to home. He's in his mid-to-late twenties, he doesn't know what's next in his life until he's forced to help his family business, the shoe factory, stay afloat. I'll emphasize that he doesn't know what's next. He hasn't had to make many, if any, real decisions in his life, until his dad's death.

Richard: A friend of mine, great Broadway actor, Trent Armand Kendall, passed away a few years ago suddenly. We were friends for a long time, we used to work at TGI Fridays together [laughs], we were crazy young actors in New York, and all that came with that! But, I remember when I saw Kinky Boots on Broadway, and I've known Billy Porter for 30 years now, that first entrance that Lola makes, I was like [gasps], "Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god!" And Trent said to me, "Richard don't worry, you'll have that entrance." And I was thinking of that this morning, I forgot about that. Of course, I got really emotional about it, and I was like, "Trent, you were right!" This part, it's a monster, it's a beast, it's so well worth it. The audiences are loving this freaking piece! I ask people, I say, "Are they always this enthusiastic?" They say, "They're enthusiastic, but this is extra!"

What an amazing full circle moment for you! And what's been your favorite part about being on stage with each other?

Richard: My favorite part of working with Jimmy is seriously every moment, and that's not BS. Jimmy is so present, and we don't talk, we just do. The other night I thought I dropped a line, but I didn't, we just go, we're so with each other. Every time I'm out there with him I feel safe, he feels safe, whatever happens we deal with it.

Jimmy: Richard, two or three nights ago, in a scene, there was a phone ringing in the audience, and you took out your phone on stage, gestured to it, and I went up to it and I was like, "Gimme that!" and I kind of made a point to the audience, the phone is gone, in the scene.

Richard: That's a perfect example, our ability to play together, it's so nice! And I've told this to Jimmy, it's unique.

You don't get that with everybody, that's nice to hear that you have that with each other.

Jimmy: I'm very lucky Richard is a very flexible actor and is able to play so freely.

What would you say is your favorite part about each of your characters?

Jimmy: I think that Charlie is passionate, and he makes something out of nothing. Like us all, he's inspired by a deadline, and he really proves himself in the moment. What I love most about him is his ability to go with the flow and to take risks. It is not fully his idea, but it is his idea to try and branch out from the regular shoemaking. And his ability to jump into the unknown is really something that I as a human try and encapsulate every day. That's what I like about Charlie.

Richard: For me, with Simon/Lola, I love the rawness, the vulnerability. Lola, Simon, whatever they feel they can spit it out. They're not guarded, and Lola is really smart, and can smell out some BS quicker than anybody can, and speak on it. And I personally want to work on that because I'll see something and I won't say anything, and they, she, they just go for it, and I love that. Vulnerable, funny, sad, happy, all over the place, all in one thing like a tornado, just whips it up and keeps on going! And I love that.

They're special characters, and I'm sure that there's a lot to learn from them as actors.

Richard: Yeah, and as people! Be yourself. I always go back to that line, the Oscar WildeInterview: Richard E. Waits & Jimmy Brewer Talk 'Lola' & 'Charlie' in Reimagined KINKY BOOTS at Bucks County Playhouse quote that's in there, "Be yourself. Everybody else is already taken." These are life lessons here.

Jimmy: I love doing this show because Charlie, everything that happens in the show is happening to him for the first time. And that happens for every show with every character, it should be new for them, but he's never been in a position where he's had a one on one conversation with a drag queen. So has that happen to him, and then throughout the show he's trying things that are completely new to him.

In all of this new information hitting him, it's so freeing to play a show that everything is happening for the first time to that character. I get to step on stage, and the preparation for the last number is all of the numbers that happened before it. And I'm lucky enough that I don't have to step off stage. I hate getting off the stage in the middle of the show because then you have to turn it back on whenever you do walk back on stage. I think it's easier for someone that's onstage that whole time to stay in the flow. You don't have to jump back into the river, you just get in at the start and before you know it you're at the end. It's so brilliant how we're on polar opposites. Charlie, straight edge, raised to be straight edge, and Lola can give you any which way direction she pleases, it's kind of like oil and water, and we still mix, we still find a way.

What's it been like getting to perform at Bucks County Playhouse? It's so historic and beautiful!

Richard: All the people, and all the history that's in the theater, the greats of show business have played there. I take that energy and just inhabit it, let it take me. It's always my prayer, to be a vessel, and the thing I care most about is the audience and taking care of them. So through all of that, being a vessel, all the energy from all these past, top, top, top performers, it's like being in church!

You feel it as an audience member too. It feels like the walls talk.

Richard: Yeah! I agree.

You mentioned taking care of the audience, and Kinky Boots is a show that really holds a special place in people's hearts. What do you hope that audience members take away from this production?

Interview: Richard E. Waits & Jimmy Brewer Talk 'Lola' & 'Charlie' in Reimagined KINKY BOOTS at Bucks County Playhouse Richard: I would hope that they can take the lesson about being yourself. Live and let live, and as the kids say, do you boo! That's the main lesson. That's what I hope they take away. I got a beautiful message from a lady, she said that her life is in turmoil right now, and "Thank you, thank you thank you for letting me have two and a half hours of relief." And she said, "What you do matters." Job done, that's it. That goes along with the prayer about being a vessel. I'm not out there for me. I'm out there for them. I want to give blood if I can.

Jimmy: This is the biggest musical I've had the chance to be a part of after Covid, and out of New York. Doing it at Bucks, you can feel how sacred of a space it is. Especially in these Covid times, you can feel that everyone is rooting for the show to just happen. Even in the middle of the show, rooting figuratively, but literally rooting. I don't think there's been a show, not to jinx it, where Lola's entrance hasn't just erupted into applause. Everyone is very eager to enjoy themselves. And with Kinky Boots, there's not many other shows that come to mind that are truly just as much of a crowd pleaser.

And it's the cast really, it's the cast that really makes it worthwhile. This production has it in spades, but as an audience member, you see a show sometimes, you see the show as is, the surface of the show, the storytelling, but you can also maybe sometimes see the politics that are behind the surface. Like, do the actors on stage have chemistry? Are they actually enjoying themselves or is it just a job to them? And I feel with this show, both are roaring in a positive direction, because everyone on that stage, we do the work and it's such a collaborative effort. It's not competitive, there is no tea, there's no drama. Everyone is just so happy to be doing this work together.

That makes me happy to hear!

Richard: I want to talk about our casting director, he got us all in the room, this group of people, Paul Hardt. He got us in front of Sheryl Kaller and Hope Boykin for our auditions, and that's where it started. And then, our two directors continued on.

Everything that happens on stage can only happen if there's a good team behind the scenes!

Jimmy: Sheryl Kaller, the character study work that she helped me do in the two weeks of rehearsal up to the show, that's who Charlie is. She helped me find him so much faster than I would have been able to find him on my own.

Do you have any final thoughts to share?

Richard: Back to these audiences! These New Hope, Pennsylvania... what is this place?! I came here thinking I was coming to rural Pennsylvania!

Jimmy: There are half as many matinees during the week, and they are all, if not as, more electric than the night audiences.

Richard: Oh my god, the matinees! The mature matinees! Oh my god, it just touches a chord! Some of those matinees are like opening night, they're just wild! And then then you look out in the audience and you're like, "They're up in age! They're acting like it's the 1950s!" It's great, really great.

I'm sure that feel so great on stage.

Richard: It does, and back to taking care of, I don't know how old they are, but they are living their lives out there! They're just as energetic as a Friday night audience. And I find that to be rare, also. I don't know what's in the water here in New Hope!

Something good!

Richard: I'll have what she's having!



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