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Fayetteville’s J. Harrison Ghee Will Don Lola’s Red Knee-High “Kinky Boots” on March 10-15 at DPAC

Steven Booth (left) and J. Harrison Ghee forge an unlikely alliance as Charie Price, the owner of a failing men's shoe-factory and the drag-queen Lola, whose suggestion that Price & Son manufacture "kinky boots" revitalizes the moribund business (photo by Matthew Murphy)

Steven Booth (left) and J. Harrison Ghee forge an unlikely alliance as Charlie Price, the owner of a failing men’s shoe factory and the cabaret singer and drag-queen Lola, whose suggestion that Price & Son manufacture “kinky boots” revitalizes the moribund business (photo by Matthew Murphy)

Fayetteville, NC native J. Harrison Ghee will don the flamboyant London cabaret singer and drag queen Lola’s trademark red knee-high, high-heeled footwear when the First National Tour of the hit Broadway musical Kinky Boots roars into the Durham Performing Arts Center on March 10-15. Ghee says he is performing the part in Nashville, TN; Dallas, TX; Durham and Charlotte, NC; and Buffalo and Rochester, NY, while the tour’s regular Lola, Kyle Taylor Parker, is filling in on Broadway for Billy Porter, who won the 2013 Tony Award® for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical.

“When I am not playing Lola, I cover Angel and the male shoe-factory workers,” says Ghee. “I pretty much know the part of every man on the stage.”

Billy Porter’s three-month of leave of absence and Kyle Taylor Parker’s temporary relocation to the Great White Way give Ghee a chance to strut his stuff as the boxer-turned-drag queen who saves Price & Son, a foundering men’s shoe factory in Northampton, England. In playing Lola (nee Simon), the 25-year-old Ghee declares, “I have an advantage that other people in the show don’t necessarily have. I’ve been performing in drag for five years now, so I’ve built up the stamina to perform in high heels…. [Plus, m]y personal drag career … allows me to connect with Lola.”

He adds, “They are custom-made boots, made especially for our feet and body weight. They’re actually more comfortable than you can imagine.”

Kinky Boots, with its Tony-winning music and lyrics by Cyndi Lauper and its Tony-nominated book by Harvey Fierstein, made its Broadway debut on April 4, 2013 at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre, where it is still running, with more than 800 performances to date. Nominated for thirteen 2013 Tony Awards, Kinky Boots took home six Tonys — for Best Musical, Best Original Score Written for the Theatre (Cyndi Lauper), Best Choreography (director/choreographer Jerry Mitchell), Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical (Billy Porter), Best Orchestrations (Stephen Oremus), and Best Sound Design of a Musical (John Shivers), plus the 2013 Drama Desk Award for 2013 Outstanding Actor in a Musical (Billy Porter).

In addition to J. Harrison Ghee as Simon/Lola, the tour cast includes Steven Booth as relutant Midlands men’s shoe-factory heir Charlie Price, who’d rather pursue a lucrative real estate career in London; Grace Stockdale as his social-climbing fiancée, Nicola; Lindsay Nicole Chambers as Lauren, a working class girl who catches Charlie’s eye; Joe Coots as Don, a bigoted shoe-factory worker who becomes Lola’s nemesis; Craig Waletzko as George the factory manager; Amelia Cormack as a middle-aged factory worker named Trish; Ross Lekites as Nicola’s boss Richard Bailey; Mike Longo as a shoe salesman named Harry, whose success Charlie envies; Bonnie Milligan as Pat the factory’s meddlesome office manager; Kenny Morris as Charlie’s father Mr. Price; and Horace V. Rogers as Lola’s father Simon Sr. The Angels, who perform in drag at The Blue Angel Nightclub and double as a sort of Greek chorus for Kinky Boots include Tommy Martinez, Nick McGough, Ricky Schroeder, Juan Torres-Falcon, and Hernando Umana.

Joe Coots (right) as Don, a bigoted worker, goes off on Lola (J. Harrison Ghee) (photo by Matthew Murphy)

Joe Coots (center) as Don, a bigoted shoe-factory worker, gives Lola an earful (photo by Matthew Murphy)

Ghee says, “One of the storylines in the show is the father-son relationship between Lola and his father [Simon Sr.] and Charlie and his father [Mr. Price]. My father is a pastor in North Carolina; and I am a bold eccentric child of his, doing things outside the box…. Luckily, I have an amazing relationship with my father; but I know what a struggle that can be.”

He recalls, “I have always wanted to be a performer…. There was always music in our house…. I grew up singing in church. Singing has always been my priority.”

A 2007 graduate of E.E. Smith High School in Fayetteville and a 2009 graduate of the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York City, Ghee worked in the Tokyo Disney Resort (2009-11), performed in the Off-Broadway Equality-themed musical Little House on the Ferry in 2011, entertained aboard several ships of the Norwegian Cruise Line (2012-13), and was a member of the Featured Male Ensemble in a 2013 production of The Color Purple for the White Plains Performing Arts Center in White Plains, NY, before joining the First National Tour of Kinky Boots, which opened on Sept. 4, 2014, at the Smith Center in Las Vegas, NV, and will close on Sept. 1-6, 2016 at The Peace Center in Greenville, SC.

“There’s a [special] moment that Charlie and Lola have together in the song ‘Not My Father’s Son,'” says J. Harrison Ghee. “It’s a very quiet and intimate moment.”

He adds, “It is hard to believe that Cindy [Lauper] didn’t know my story, with some of her choices of words [for Lola’s songs]…. It will be interesting when my father sees the show for the first time [this] week….

“I haven’t been home for a little over two years,” Ghee says. “[Performing at DPAC and, later, in Charlotte] is a great opportunity to go back to North Carolina and share this show’s amazing message with people that I know and love.

“The message of this musical is, ‘Just be who you want to be and know that you can change the world when you change your mind,'” says Ghee.

Lola (left center) and Charlie celebrate production of the first kinky boot (photo by Matthew Murphy)

Lola (left center) and Charlie celebrate production of the first kinky boot (photo by Matthew Murphy)

SECOND OPINION: March 6th Raleigh, NC BroadwayWorld.com Raleigh interview with J. Harrison Ghee, conducted by Jeffrey Karasarides: http://www.broadwayworld.com/raleigh/article/BWW-Interviews-J-Harrison-Ghee-of-KINKY-BOOTS-National-Tour-20150306; March 6th Raleigh, NC News & Observer mini-preview by Roy C. Dicks: http://www.newsobserver.com/entertainment/arts-culture/article12845300.html; and March 5th Durham, NC Herald-Sun preview by Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: http://www.heraldsun.com/lifestyles/entertainment/x923741691/-KINKY-BOOTS-J-Harrison-Ghee-steps-into-spotlight (Note: You must subscribe to read this article).

The Durham Performing Arts Center presents KINKY BOOTS at 7:30 p.m. March 10-12, 8 p.m. March 13, 2 and 8 p.m. March 14, and 1 and 6:30 p.m. March 15 at DPAC at 123 Vivian St., Durham, North Carolina 27701, in the American Tobacco Historic District.

TICKETS: $52.19-$173.39 (including fees). Click here for DPAC Special Offers.

BOX OFFICE:

DPAC Box Office: 919-680-ARTS (2787), tickets@dpacnc.com, or http://www.dpacnc.com/events-tickets/where-to-buy.

Ticketmaster: 800-982-2787 or http://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115558/1726370/.

GROUP RATES (15+ tickets): 919/281-0587, Groups@DPACnc.com, or http://www.dpacnc.com/events-tickets/group-services.

SHOW: http://www.dpacnc.com/events/detail/kinky-boots and https://www.facebook.com/events/265199500318170/.

VIDEO PREVIEWS: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OzZ0ztL9Tl0 and https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLeJ-O3FgSgzZKfVBqRE7k9ZCBnaTso5MK.

THE TOUR: http://kinkybootsthemusical.com/tour.php.

TOUR CAST: http://kinkybootsthemusical.com/tourcast.php.

CREATIVE TEAM: http://kinkybootsthemusical.com/creative.php.

OFFICIAL SHOW GUIDE: http://digital.turn-page.com/i/131604.

DPAC‘S 2014-15 SUNTRUST BROADWAY SERIES: http://www.dpacnc.com/suntrust-broadway-series-2014-15.

PRESENTER/VENUE: http://www.dpacnc.com/, https://www.facebook.com/DPACNC, https://twitter.com/DPAC, and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Durham_Performing_Arts_Center.

DIRECTIONS: http://www.dpacnc.com/plan-your-visit/directions.

PARKING: http://www.dpacnc.com/plan-your-visit/parking.

NOTE: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh will audio-describe the show’s 8 p.m. Friday, March 13th, performance.

OTHER LINKS:

Kinky Boots (2005 film): http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0434124/ (Internet Movie Database) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kinky_Boots_%28film%29 (Wikipedia).

Kinky Boots (2013 Broadway and 2015 West End musical): http://kinkybootsthemusical.com/index.php (official website), http://ibdb.com/show.php?id=493286 (Internet Broadway Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kinky_Boots_%28musical%29 (Wikipedia).

Cyndi Lauper (music and lyrics): http://cyndilauper.com/ (official website), http://ibdb.com/person.php?id=391830 (Internet Broadway Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyndi_Lauper (Wikipedia).

Harvey Fierstein (book): http://ibdb.com/person.php?id=6157 (Internet Broadway Database), https://www.facebook.com/harvey.fierstein (Facebook page), https://twitter.com/harveyfierstein (Twitter page), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harvey_Fierstein (Wikipedia).

J. Harrison Ghee (Fayetteville, NC-born actor who plays Lola): https://www.facebook.com/jharrisonghee (Facebook page).

EDITOR’S NOTE:

Robert W. McDowell has written articles for The News & Observer, The Raleigh Times, Spectator Magazine, CVNC, and Triangle Arts and Entertainment, all based in Raleigh. He edits and publishes two FREE weekly e-mail newsletters. Triangle Review provides comprehensive, in-depth coverage of local performing-arts events. (Start your FREE subscription by e-mailing robertm748@aol.com and typing SUBSCRIBE TR in the Subject: line.) McDowell also maintains a FREE list of movie sneak previews. (To subscribe, e-mail robertm748@aol.com and type SUBSCRIBE FFL FREE in the Subject: line.)

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