THE LEADING MEN: Tony Nominees Billy Porter and Stark Sands Kick Up Their Heels in Broadway's Kinky Boots

By Michael Gioia
06 May 2013

Sands with Annaleigh Ashford
Photo by Matthew Murphy

You have great chemistry with Billy Porter throughout the whole show. What is it like going on that journey with him? Emotionally exhausting?
SS: It is. [Laughs.] It is, but it's rewarding. I get to spend myself on stage in a lot of different directions. He's a joy to work with. I learn something form Billy every day, and he's a naturally playful performer, and I like to act in that same style. I might have to say the same words every night, but if I can find an interesting new way to say them that will keep them fresh for me, it's more fun, and I think it's more interesting for the audience, too.

What excites me is that a lot of the Tony-nominated songwriters are first-time Broadway composers. What is it like getting to sing Cyndi Lauper's score? Was she present throughout the process?
SS: She was there all the time, every day — very hands on, not just with the singers, but with the band, with everything. She has quite an ear, and she knows what she's doing. It's incredible to have Cyndi Lauper giving me vocal notes and a 45-minute vocal lesson every once in a while, all in the interest of making the show a better show. It's a real honor.

Sands on opening night
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

[SPOILER!] Tell me about coming out at the end of the show in those fabulous kinky boots.
SS: You're giving away the ending! [Laughs.] I'm just kidding. Coming out in the kinky boots at the end is a joy because I think it's unexpected for some people, [although] I think most people have figured it out. It's fun. These boots were tailor made for my feet and my legs in Italy and by LaDuca [Dance Shoes] — it was a collaboration — so they don't hurt. They're not pinching my toes. They are perfectly sculpted for me. I use different muscles than I normally do when I'm walking, but I've learned how to walk — and I'm going to knock on wood, so I don't jinx myself. The wobbling that I'm doing is, now at this point, mostly manufactured. It's just fun.



Was your wife so proud of you when you came out strutting in heels at the end of the show?
SS: [Laughs.] Yes! Yes, she says that I walk in heels better than she does. She's really tall, so she doesn't usually wear heels that much, but I now have an interest in heels and a respect for them, so I've been trying to nudge her in that direction.

Annaleigh Ashford was just telling me about the Kinky Boots fan who got the show's logo tattooed on the side of his body.
SS: It's not just the logo — the "K" — but he asked for my permission last week: "Stark, I want to ask your permission to get your signature tattooed on my body." I [said], "Okay." I didn't know if he was serious or not. And, it's me, Billy and Annaleigh. The signature that I signed on his Playbill, he had somebody tattoo it onto his body — mine, Billy's and Annaleigh's.

(Playbill.com staff writer Michael Gioia's work appears in the news, feature and video sections of Playbill.com. Follow him on Twitter at @PlaybillMichael.)

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