Jake Shears is ‘alarmed’ and excited about ‘Kinky Boots’
By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
Backstage at a London Pet Shop Boys show this spring, Scissor Sisters front man Jake Shears is — admittedly — grousing about something.
Then, his friend from the PSB, Chris Lowe, set him straight.
“He said to me, ‘You need to stop and look at all the stuff you’re doing,’” Shears recalls.
“‘This is stuff that anybody would dream of.’ I try to remember that a lot.”
This month, he’ll continue his Broadway dream by playing Charlie Price in the production of “Kinky Boots” at the Hollywood Bowl from Friday, July 8, to Sunday, July 10.
“I’m still a little bit alarmed — but excited,” the effervescent Shears says with a laugh via Zoom from his London home.
“I heard they were doing it, and I was just praying that they would call and ask me to do it. I wanted to do it again.”
Couple that with Shears’ desire to perform at the Hollywood Bowl, and it’s his perfect storm.
“I’ve never performed at the Hollywood Bowl before,” Shears says.
“It’s always been a massive dream of mine. I love playing big places. I love playing big festivals. I love playing big stages. I love playing big rooms. I feel like the Hollywood Bowl is one of the classic big, big stages.”
Inspired by a true story, “Kinky Boots” will be the 21st annual LA Phil and Hollywood Bowl-produced, fully staged Broadway musical to be presented at the historic venue. It tells the story of an unlikely friendship.
Factory owner Charlie is struggling to save his business, and the fabulous Lola has a wildly exciting idea that just might do the trick.
Shears will be joined in the musical by the likes of Wayne Brady (Lola), Kelly Marie Tran (Lauren), Mark Ballas (Harry), Marissa Jared Winokur (Pat), Jim J. Bullock (George) and Jennifer Perry (Trish).
“Believe it or not, they’re going to be the first stilettos I’ll ever have worn. My feet are so big, I’ve never seen a pair that would actually fit me,” he said in 2018.
“Kinky Boots” won six 2013 Tony Awards including best musical, with its Tony-winning music and lyrics by Cyndi Lauper, uplifting book by four-time Tony winner Harvey Fierstein, and direction and Tony-winning choreography by original director-choreographer Jerry Mitchell.
The conductor and musical director is two-time Tony and Grammy winner Stephen Oremus, the original music supervisor, arranger and orchestrator of “Kinky Boots,” for which he won the Tony for best orchestrations. “Kinky Boots” also won the Grammy for best musical theater album.
Shears made his Broadway debut in “Kinky Boots” in 2018. He says performing on The Great White Way fulfilled his dream “tenfold.”
“I didn’t know if I could do it or not, but I definitely wanted to try,” he says about his “Kinky Boots” debut.
“The opportunity to go on and star in a Broadway show was super exciting. I love musicals. I love making them. I knew that to be in a musical like ‘Kinky Boots’ would be experiencing a full machine — something that’s built with all these moving parts. Going into a show like that is like stepping into a well-oiled machine. I love writing musicals. My second musical is going into production this fall.”
He wrote the music for the 2011 stage musical “Tales of the City.” Shears’ second production begins this fall at the Almeida Theatre in London — an as-of-yet unnamed musical he has written with Elton John about Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker.
“I’m not musical expert,” he says.
“I love it, and I think I’m pretty good at it. I don’t have any big knowledge of musicals. I just have a passion for it.
“To step into that machine of ‘Kinky Boots’ and see the inner workings of a super successful show like that was really eye opening to me. I learned so much about musicals in general. That was one of the biggest gifts I got from it.”
Known for his flamboyant stage presence, Shears enjoys every moment onstage and jumps at any chance to do so.
“Doing eight shows a week on Broadway, five-show weekends, you finish Sunday night having lived part of your life in front of an audience,” Shears says.
“This ‘Kinky Boots’ character, Charlie Price, is onstage for most of the show. When I finished a weekend like that, I lived most of my life on a stage. It’s a weird feeling but a really cool one, too. It was some of the hardest work I ever did. It just brought me so much joy. Being asked to be back in it is exciting. It’s three nights at a venue. That’s been one of my biggest dreams to play ever. I never thought I would be in a show like this ever. There’s no way I was going to pass this up.”
Shears was raised in Mesa, Arizona, and returns occasionally to visit friends and family.
“I came out at (age) 15 at Mountain View High School in, like, 1993,” he says. “I had a lot of fun experiences in Arizona growing up around that time. I was in and out of the Phoenix area. I did spend quite a bit of time there.”
Concerts in the desert shaped Shears’ music sensibility — especially in the early 1990s when alt and Brit pop were all the rage.
“It was a major place for everyone to play,” he says about metropolitan Phoenix. “All the great alternative bands and Brit bands played there. My first concert was Siouxsie and the Banshees at the Mesa Amphitheater when I was 12.
“The number of concerts, the number of bands I saw there, it just completely shaped my taste and made me want to make music.”
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday, July 8, and Saturday, July 9;
and 7:30 p.m. Sunday, July 10
WHERE: Hollywood Bowl, 2301 N. Highland Avenue, Los Angeles
COST: Ticket prices vary
INFO: 323-850-2000, hollywoodbowl.com