Column: ‘Kinky Boots’ Does Some Heavenly Work


By Rabbi Mitchell Hurvitz
Sentinel Columnist

enjoy Broadway musicals, but until recently I had never returned to Broadway to see the same musical for a second time. However, I wanted to celebrate my youngest daughter’s 16th birthday in a special and meaningful way. Faith loves Broadway and I knew she’d be thrilled to celebrate her birthday at the theatre.

When considering which Broadway show to attend, I was surprised that my mind kept drifting back to the Tony Award-winning production of the musical “Kinky Boots.” I had seen “Kinky Boots” with Roseanne and dear friends almost two years ago. “Kinky Boots” was an inspiring production on all theatric counts, and I knew Faith would love it. More than that, I also realized that, with “Kinky Boots,” I was going to take my daughter to both a form of entertainment and a place by which to experience holiness.

There’s an old saying: “A lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth can get its boots on.” 

“Kinky Boots” expresses the great truths: to look for the spark of Godliness within each of us, to accept differences and to learn to love your fellow human although he or she has some variations from yourself. We were all created in variation. The boots, in life, and in the show, signify getting down to work… the work of co-existence, peace and truth.

The theatrical production of “Kinky Boots” is the creation of Cyndi Lauper, who wrote the music and lyrics, and Harvey Fierstein, who wrote the book. Based on a true story, which is depicted in a 2005 film by the same name, the musical tells the story of a shoemaker, Charlie Price. 

Charlie had to take over his father’s struggling factory, or else see his father’s legacy die and all of their long-time employees lose their jobs. Due to extenuating circumstances, Charlie meets Lola, a drag queen, and together they embark on a journey that will save the shoe factory.

The show confronts inherent prejudices that individuals often carry, either overtly or quietly. The message of the show is also the fundamental message of Judaism. Every individual is created in the image of God, and we are charged by God to find the discipline to love ourselves for who we are and to love others for who they are, even if they are dramatically different from us. The culmination of the musical is when there is a codification of the lessons learned:

Once I was afraid, but then you came along.

Put your faith in me and I was challenged to be strong.

When I lost my way, you were there to see me through…

If you hit the dust,

Let me raise you up.

When your bubble busts,

Let me raise you up.

If your glitter rusts,

Let me raise you up and up…

We have all heard of the 12-step program, have we not? Yes, but what you can do in 12, I want you to know that we all can do in six now, and it goes like this:

One: Pursue the truth.

Two: Learn something new.

Three: Accept yourself and you’ll accept others too!

Four: Let love shine.

Five: Let pride be your guide.

Six: Change the world when you change your mind!

Faith has attended parochial school her whole life. Roseanne and I have emphasized to all of our children to love God, Torah, our Jewish family, and our human family.

Growing up I heard many biases uttered. I was taught prejudicial feelings and noted “differences” with judgmental eyes. Intellectually, I knew the prejudiced feelings were inappropriate and completely inconsistent with the fundamental lessons of Judaism. However, it’s challenging to overcome the unwanted feelings when they creep into the present.

It was with my return to Kinky Boots for a second time that I knew why I had raised this show to be worthy of a second visit.

Holding my daughter’s hand, I was clutching a child; soon-to-be young adult; who neither intellectually nor emotionally was ever challenged with an inability to accept people for who they are. The six steps highlighted in the Kinky Boots code had been codified within my children.

• Pursue the truth

• Learn something new

• Accept yourself and you’ll accept others too!

• Let love shine

• Let pride be your guide

• Change the world when you change your mind!

And to my daughter, I am able to gratefully acknowledge:

Once I was afraid, but then you came along.

Put your faith in me and I was challenged to be strong.

When I lost my way, you were there to see me through.

Such potential we human beings have! God was right to trust us with the gift of a world full of beautiful differences and the similarities of intrinsic holiness being equally present within the entire human family.

May we all reach to put on our boots to heal our world.

Mitchell Hurvitz is senior rabbi at Temple Sholom in Greenwich.

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