Friend of the podcast Blair Goldberg shares how the upcoming evening Kinky Boots Sings Cyndi Lauper was created.
Bringing people together for a good cause always feels rewarding. But it's not always easy and it's certainly not always smooth sailing, especially when dealing with a bunch of fellow actors ;)
The story of how this "Kinky Boots Sings Cyndi Lauper" at 54 Below came to be is a bit random but just shows how certain things in life are meant to be!
I've been in Kinky Boots on Broadway for about a year and a half now, and while I absolutely adore it, there are often days where I feel the need to have more creative output in my life. I want to sing different music, I want to step out of my comfort zone, I just want...more! And I think that feeling is totally common and normal for someone who's been in the same show for an extended period of time, magnified by the fact that I had a baby about two years ago, and I'm really now getting my full groove back. So I approached my friend, Jennifer Ashley Tepper, who just happens to be the Creative and Programming Director at Feinstein's/54 Below. I told her that I was interested in singing at more concerts and if she, or anybody she works with, was looking for more singers in any upcoming concerts, I wanted in. She was immediately responsive and awesome and passed my name on to some friends. She also threw out an idea to me that had been in her head for awhile: Would my cast be interested in doing a concert at 54 where we sang all Cyndi Lauper music? I was immediately interested but confused. Did she want me to spearhead this? Produce it? Direct it? I consider myself an organized, strong willed, opinionated person, but I don't necessarily love leading my peers and telling them what to do. I don't know how dance captains do it... it's just not my wheelhouse and it makes me feel uncomfortable sometimes in a professional setting. I much prefer to run my own household. Nevertheless, I jumped at the opportunity and she followed up by hooking me up with the incredible Shoshana Feinstein. Shoshana has been a friend of mine for awhile, but this would be our first time working together. She would produce with me and guide me through this. I was super excited and immediately sent out a pitch to my cast.
Though it was only April, and the concert would be in August, a bunch of cast members responded right away that they were interested and started throwing out ideas. We got our producers as well as Cyndi on board who were all super excited. We got their permission to use the Kinky name and logo, and we were off and rolling.
Fast forward to June, we received some rather upsetting news: Our fellow cast mate and friend, Eric L. Summers, was diagnosed with cancer. Multiple myeloma. We were all heartbroken, but we we also knew if anyone could fight this, it was Eric. We all rallied together, collecting money, visiting him in the hospital, and one of our cast members even worked with his mother to set up a Go Fund Me that has been wildly successful. But, I had another thought. What if we turned our Cyndi tribute concert into a way to raise some more money for Eric as a cast? It would be for a good cause and it would bring us all together in a special way. Shoshana and I discussed it and thought of some great ideas. We got Eric's permission, and that was that!
While it's been an absolute pleasure and lots of fun spearheading this concert, it doesn't come without challenges. People who initially said they were interested could no longer work the concert into their schedule, people left the Kinky Boots for other projects, new people joined, and most difficult of all, we had to find time to all rehearse. Will Van Dyke, our incredible conductor and music director at Kinky was on board to music direct the evening, so the two of us had various meetings to discuss set list, groupings, keys for the songs, and rehearsals. We all lead busy lives, so simply finding time was the toughest part. We reached out to some alumni and were lucky enough to get them on board (Billy Porter, Andy Kelso and Alan Mingo Jr., just to name a few) so scheduling people for rehearsals who aren't even in the building right now has been tough too!
We've also run into a few snags on how we wanted to raise money. I immediately thought of doing an auction. Never having done this before, I had no idea how these things work, but Shoshana quickly informed me that 54 Below probably wouldn't be the best venue for the auction, and we'd be able to reach a larger audience with an online auction. We were fortunate enough to get our current Charlie Price, Brendon Urie, to donate a signed Fender guitar (OMG!!!) and so we will be auctioning that off online, but also announcing it at the concert. I also wanted to have various signed merchandise for sale, but Shoshana and I agreed that instead of setting up a literal store at the venue and causing way too much chaos in a small space with 5 + options for sale, we'd stick to a few signed items in large quantities. It was a huge learning curve for me, learning what kind of things we could make happen and what we had to let go of.
Though these things are never an easy undertaking, I can't tell you how much joy it's brought me to bring my cast together for the greater good, while still having a blast making music. Plus, alumni get to reunite with current cast members! It's absolutely lovely. Our producers, company management, creatives, stage management, and even Cyndi herself have all been so supportive and excited for us and I'm really grateful for that. We are all really looking forward to a night of celebrating both Cyndi and our dear friend, Eric. The music is sounding incredible, and we are all having a wonderful bonding experience in the process.