- Associated Press - Friday, March 15, 2013

NEW YORK (AP) - Writing her first musical turned into a time machine for Cyndi Lauper.

As the Grammy Award winner began work on the exuberant “Kinky Boots,” it took her back to her childhood, where she was likely to be found listening endlessly to cast albums on a record player.

There was “There’s No Business Like Show Business” and “My Fair Lady.” And “South Pacific,” of course. She remembers her grandmother coming downstairs and ripping “The King and I” off the player after one too many spins.

“My mother said I was a little odd as a kid,” says Lauper, 59. “I was alone a lot but I didn’t feel alone. When I sang with those records, I’d be Julie Andrews and there was Rex Harrison sitting on my mother’s bed. I was Mitzi Gaynor. I was Ezio Pinza. I think she had Mary Martin, too _ I was all of them. I was pretty good until they sang duets.”

Sitting backstage at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre, waiting to catch another preview of her 15-song debut as a Broadway lyricist and composer, Lauper is both nervous and humble. The little girl who listened compulsively to show tunes has now delivered her own.

“It’s the closest thing to being 5,” she says.

“Kinky Boots,” which opens April 4, is based on an obscure 2005 British film about a British shoe factory on the brink of ruin that retrofits itself into a maker of fetishistic footwear for drag queens.

The musical version has a reworked story by Harvey Fierstein. It is directed and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell, with music supervised by Stephen Oremus. All three are Tony Award winners.

“I keep telling myself how lucky am I that the first thing I do on Broadway has Harvey and Jerry and Stephen Oremus _ everyone a Tony winner,” Lauper says. “C’mon, that’s awesome!”

This isn’t the first time the “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” singer has been asked to compose music for the stage. It took her old friend Fierstein, the book writer for “La Cage aux Folles” and “Newsies,” to lure her out.

His new story helped: Fierstein has teased out the friendship between the straight factory owner and the factory-saving transvestite who suggests the boot switch, who bond over their harsh fathers.

The show embraces acceptance and tolerance, things long championed by Lauper, whose True Colors Fund has called for an end to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth homelessness.

“It’s about outsiders, it’s about people overcoming their differences for the greater good. Of course this would speak to me,” she says, laughing. “Who the hell else would it speak to?”

Lauper and Fierstein have developed a joking mentor-mentee relationship that draws on the classic “Mommie Dearest” film. Fierstein calls her “Tina” and signs his notes “Mommy.”

Fierstein says converting a pop composer into a Broadway one wasn’t easy but Lauper was game. He needed songs that propel the action rather than restate a theme, as pop tunes do. He also needed to teach her that a song can be good but it might not fit the space needed.

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