‘Kinky Boots’: North Carolina native kicks up heels in Queen City

Popular stage staple back by popular demand

Lola makes it clear: The sex is in the heel.

“Kinky Boots,” the smash-hit musical inspired by true events, takes you from a gentlemen’s shoe factory in rural England to the glamorous catwalks of Milan. Charlie Price is struggling to live up to his father’s expectations and continue the family business of Price & Son. With the factory’s future hanging in the balance, help arrives in the unlikely but spectacular form of Lola, a fabulous performer in need of some sturdy new stilettos.

The musical earned six Tony Awards in 2013, among them Best Musical, Best Score (Cyndi Lauper) and Best Actor (Billy Porter).

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J. Harrison Ghee, a North Carolina native, will reprise the role of Lola later this month in Charlotte, N.C., just one stop on the musical’s nationwide tour.

In an email interview with qnotes, Ghee shared his excitement not only about performing in his home state, but also about helping to instill Pride in the LGBT community.

“Kinky Boots” will run Dec. 29-Jan. 3 at the Belk Theater at the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center. Tickets are on sale at blumenthalarts.org, by phone at 704-372-1000 and at the Belk Theater box office (130 N. Tryon St.).

J. Harrison Ghee plays Lola in ‘Kinky Boots’ at Blumenthal Performing Arts beginning Dec. 29. Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy

J. Harrison Ghee plays Lola in ‘Kinky Boots’ at Blumenthal Performing Arts beginning Dec. 29.
Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy

QN: I read you’re a North Carolina native, a fact that qnotes readers will surely be happy to know. Where are you from in North Carolina?
JHG: I’m originally from Fayetteville, and it is the most amazing feeling to come back to my home state and be the star of such an inspiring show and share this message with friends and family!

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QN: What/who got you interested in theater? What other roles have you played?
JHG: After playing the Tin Man in my high school production of “The Wiz,” I was hooked on the theater bug; I’ve always loved the 1978 movie production of it. I also performed in show choir in high school and I got such a thrill singing and dancing.

QN: Tell me about your interest in “Kinky Boots.” Where did you first hear about it?
JHG: My first knowledge of “Kinky Boots” was reading a casting breakdown for it when they were originally casting for it and I knew it was something I had to be a part of. I’ve followed the show ever since, and am honored to be here in this moment with this opportunity.

QN: What did you do to prepare for the role of Lola? How many times have you played this role?
JHG: I’ve been doing drag for five years, so I guess you could say that was a major factor in preparation for the role; there was also all the time I spent watching any and every video I could of Billy Porter dealing with the show. From his backstage process to interviews and performances, I’ve pretty much seen them all. I had the opportunity to do it for about a month and half in the spring when Billy took a leave of absence on Broadway and our original tour Lola went back to fill in for him, on top of a few times I’ve stepped in since then before taking over.

QN: Why is this production particularly important to the LGBT community?
JHG: It’s a universal message of being true to yourself and letting your light shine bright without apology, and it’s definitely an affirmation for the LGBT community to continue to stand tall and be bold. “You change the world when you change your mind” is definitely something I’m sure the community would like the world to understand more and be open to the beauty of what we as individuals bring to society.

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