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Interview: An Unlikely and Inspiring Friendship - Matt Farcher and Stephane Duret Discuss MSMT's Upcoming KINKY BOOTS

"You change the world when you change your mind."

Interview: An Unlikely and Inspiring Friendship - Matt Farcher and Stephane Duret Discuss MSMT's Upcoming KINKY BOOTS
Stephane Duret

"My favorite quote from KINKY BOOTS is 'You change the world when you change your mind,'" declares Stephane Duret who stars as the original, flashy drag queen, Lola.

His co-star, Matt Farcher, who plays shoe factory owner Charlie Price, elaborates: "We need to learn by being open, by being available to see something from someone else's lens. They [Lola and Charlie] give each other a little bit of grace," he adds, describing the unlikely bond that grows between these two characters, transforming both of them and an entire community around them.

Both Duret and Farcher are currently in Brunswick preparing for the run of Maine State Music Theatre's last main stage production of the season beginning on August 10: Harvey Fierstein/Cyndi Lauper's KINKY BOOTS, a show they have each performed before. Based on a true story, it tells the heartwarming tale of a Northampton, England shoe manufacturer, who saves his failing factory by collaborating with a drag queen to create niche market boots for drag performers. Despite the very different worlds Lola and Charlie inhabit, this endeavor brings them together in a relationship that serves as a beacon of acceptance, understanding, forgiveness, and enlightened perspectives.

Making his MSMT debut, Duret, who studied theatre in Chicago before moving to New York, was part of the original Broadway company of KINKY BOOTS from 2016-2019, and racked up a resume of other Off-Broadway and regional credits, in addition to working with Kaiser's Room - "a labor of love" - a nonprofit organization providing arts programming for individuals with cognitive and developmental disabilities.

In KINKY BOOTS on Broadway, he was an invaluable Swing, "I performed all of it. Some mornings I would go on as Lola and then play Old Simon in the evenings, and I did all the factory workers at some point." With that deep connection to the show, he was delighted when he received a call to join the MSMT cast two days into the rehearsal process. "To get to work with [director] Marc Robin and [choreographer] Kenny Ingram, who were legends to me when I was working in Chicago, is a dream come true."

Interview: An Unlikely and Inspiring Friendship - Matt Farcher and Stephane Duret Discuss MSMT's Upcoming KINKY BOOTS
Matt Farcher

Farcher returns to MSMT, having played Che in EVITA (2016) and Jack Kelly in NEWSIES (2018). He made his Broadway debut in PRETTY WOMAN (2018) and stayed with the show for a year before first essaying the role of Charlie Price in the Fulton's production of KINKY BOOTS which opened in March 2020, but was shut down by the pandemic after only a few performances. Since returning to the stage he has performed in SOMETHING ROTTEN at Pioneer Theatre and in recent days devoting his off-stage energies to Fill With Love, a scholarship fund for Physicians' Assistants, which he helped establish to honor "someone close to me whom I lost." Returning to MSMT - "a place I feel comfortable and taken care of" and to KINKY BOOTS - a bit of an unfinished journey - has special significance for him.

"Every time I work with Marc [Robin]," Farcher says, I feel as if I am doing a play that happens to have music. Marc puts the book first. He makes sure every ensemble member, every scene has a genuine purpose and life. There is a reason for everything that happens on stage; every character has a backstory. Heart is where Marc goes first. The audience leaves thinking about something rather than just singing something."

Duret agrees: "Even though I got to do this show on Broadway for two and one-half years, I am finding nuances now that I never thought of before. That's a beautiful gift to me because this piece means a lot to me." Duret also appreciates the new perspective choreographer Kenny Ingram is bringing to the show. "It is really fun to get to vibe off Kenny Ingram. Kenny and I know some of the same musical theatre icons in Chicago, and we speak a shared musical language. Lola doesn't normally dance this much," he adds," and this really feels good."

Duret and Farcher probe the relationship of their characters. Duret notes that both Lola and Charlie "experienced similar sensations toward their fathers" - even though one is ultra privileged and the other suffers from a lack of support - and this is a foundation on which to build their relationship."

Farcher continues: "Both have been raised in environments with expectations, and these expectations can be limiting. They have to find things for themselves, and these two [ultimately] find their path together."

Tracing the arc and watershed moments of his character, Farcher says: "Charlie has had a privileged childhood and he can coast along. He starts out looking for a way out of the life his father had planned for him. He is a lost soul. Lola inspires him at the beginning of his journey. He is someone trying to do right by people but he gets lost because he doesn't know how to trust or to ask for help. But then he messes things up, and it is at the end when he leaves a message for Lola from Milan that "this is the most authentic, grounded version of Charlie we see in the show. He has finally learned his lesson, and Lola saves the day."

Duret continues, noting that where Charlie begins as a lost soul, "Lola starts out with a bang. She has confidence, certainty, unapologetic flair, grace, and charisma. When Charlie asks her to help design the boots, she trusts him, and in the scene where they meet in the bathroom, she realizes she trusts him and they are more similar [than one might have thought]. In act two, there is a deterioration of something beautiful, and it has to be built back up again."

"There are lots of moments when Lola could be offended and walk away," Farcher adds, "but she knows who they are; she takes the situations in her stride. There are so many moments when she rises above everything. She is what we all hope to be."

And so, these two individuals whose paths cross by chance, whose worlds are far, far away from each other, over the course of the musical, learn to love and appreciate each other for both their commonalities and their differences.

Farcher describes the friendship: "Charlie would not even have imagined a world where someone like Lola would have such an impact. He had never thought about people like Lola. So many of us live very closed off lives, in general, so to think about things from a new perspective is a rare thing. [And in this story] it has such a beautiful ripple effect. Charlie and Lola are two people who should not necessarily be together, but opposites attract and they find they work very well together until Charlie doesn't have the capacity to go on. He hasn't unpacked what he needs to, whereas Lola has the strength and groundedness. Because Lola comes into his life, Charlie is able to grow as a person. She shows up and is there for him despite some of the things Charlie says [and does] in such an authentic way. He has such a level of gratitude at the finale."

"Lola is really quite the trailblazer character," says Duret. She is all strength. She has that 'I'll be damned - I will do what I want when I want' mentality. It comes from a place of resilience, but also from non-acceptance. She is going to create her own box because there is no box for her. Part of what builds her powerful connection with Charlie is to find the support [from him] that she never got from anyone else. It's the first time Lola gets to be seen and empowered, and [it happens] almost in spite of herself. To watch that crumble and be built back up again is magical."

Asked what impact these actors feel this story will have on Maine audiences, especially in small town Brunswick, Stephane Duret says, "The writing is so impeccable, smart, universal; there are so many individualized characters on stage with whom any audience member will be able to identify. KINKY BOOTS is a huge testament to proper storytelling. It is a really beautiful piece."

Matt Farcher concurs that audiences will be able to see a reflection of themselves on stage. "But," he declares unequivocally, "the person to emulate is Lola. Lola is the true North."

Photos courtesy of MSMT

KINKY BOOTS runs from August 10-27, 2022 at MSMT's Pickard Theater on the Bowdoin College campus, 1 Bath Rd., Brunswick, ME 207-725-8769.

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From This Author - Carla Maria Verdino-Süllwold

Born and raised in the metropolitan New York area, Carla Maria Verdino-Süllwold took her degrees at Sarah Lawrence College and Fairleigh Dickinson University. She began her career as a teacher... (read more about this author)


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