Boots Over Broadway

Billy Porter has many people pumped up about his remarkable, Tony-nominated work in ''Kinky Boots''

A couple weeks ago Katy Perry raved to her nearly 37 million followers on Twitter.

”Just saw KINKY BOOTS on Broadway & cried w/joy from it’s [sic] powerful, beautiful message,” the pop star Perry wrote in a tweet maxed out to exactly 140 characters. ”Congrats on every of its deserved 13 Tony nominations!”

But Perry wasn’t done. A few seconds later she sent a second shorter, punchier tweet: ”AND if Billy Porter doesn’t win the Tony for best actor in a musical… There will be words… Trust.”

Billy Porter

Billy Porter

(Photo by Gavin Bond)

Harvey Fierstein and Cyndi Lauper’s musical, based on a 2005 British film about a drag queen who helps save a family shoemaking business, garnered the most Tony nods of any show on Broadway this year. Two of its 13 nominations are for its leads: Stark Sands, who plays Charlie, the straight man, and Porter, who plays Lola, the drag queen. Porter even faces stiff competition from another man who performs in drag — ertie Carvel, who plays a sadistic ”headmistress” in Matilda.

Even if the 43-year-old Porter doesn’t win — and Perry follows through with more words — Kinky Boots is clearly Porter’s star-making role. Not that he’s anything of a novice: The actor has spent more than two decades on and off the Great White Way, with additional forays into television and film and pop music.

”Billy’s such a great performer and a really, really good guy,” Broadway composer Stephen Schwartz said during an interview with Metro Weekly. Schwartz particularly remembers Porter as Belize in the 2010 New York revival of Angels in America, a role that Porter recalls as a ”a dream role.”

”He was fantastic, I just thought he gave an amazing performance in that,” Schwartz says. ”And not very surprisingly, he’s superb in Kinky Boots as well.”

METRO WEEKLY: Congratulations on the Tony nomination. It’s your first, right?

BILLY PORTER: Thank you! Yes it is. It’s amazing. I’ve been dreaming of this for a very long time.

MW: Did you think this would be the one that did it for you?

PORTER: Hmm, I knew that it had the potential. It’s the kind of part that sort of screams ”Tony nomination,” if you can actually get all the pieces in place properly.

MW: How long have you been working on the role?

PORTER: Since July of 2011. I did a table reading, and then we did a workshop in January of 2012. And then we went to Chicago in September of 2012.

MW: You’ve had a good long while to figure out Lola, the character.

PORTER: Yes. I had a nice long time for it to marinate. [Laughs.]

MW: Not to mention getting used to wearing heels so much of the time.

PORTER: I had walked in heels before, so it wasn’t the actual walking in them, but it was the idea of having to wear them eight times a week, and trying to figure out how to build my core strength so that I wouldn’t have back problems. I started going to Bikram yoga back in November of 2011 before the workshop. And then they sent me to a boutique gym here in New York.

MW: And so far…?

PORTER: I’m holding up. As of now, I’m holding up. I don’t have any back problems. I do physical therapy twice a week and I get a massage once a week, so I’m staying on top of all of whatever the physical issues could possibly be.

Doug Rule is a theater critic and contributing editor for Metro Weekly.

Get the Best of Metro Weekly. Join Our Email List.

Subscribe now to get the latest news, features, incredible contests and special offers delivered daily to your in-box!

We respect your privacy and never share your email with a third party.