Andy Kelso Interview: Star of Kinky Boots

kinky-boots-interview

Currently starring in the lead role of Charlie Price in Broadway’s hit musical Kinky Boots, Andy Kelso is an undeniable talent who has risen through the ranks to Broadway stardom. Originally from Denver, he has been lighting up Broadway since his 2005 debut as Sky in Mamma Mia!, a role he held for nearly three years. Before earning the lead role of Charlie in Kinky Boots in January of last year, Price originated the role of Harry, which he played from the show’s debut in 2013 while understudying the role of Charlie. New York City Monthly was honored to speak with him recently…

What do you admire most about the character you play, Charlie Price?

There is a lot to admire about Charlie, but I love that deep down, he is a leader with a huge heart.  He strives to do the right thing for the people in his life and for this “family” which is Price & Son (and eventually, Lola).  While this desire gets clouded and derailed in Act 2 when all of Charlie’s inner conflicts & the stresses of losing his father and taking over the business get the best of him, I think that deep down Charlie believes that he is truly trying to help.  Although he goes about it in horrible, hurtful way, I love that when he realizes that he was wrong, he learns from his mistakes and genuinely tries to become better.

You’ve been in the show since the beginning, originally playing the role of ‘Harry’. What were some of the challenges of transitioning to a lead role?

I think the main challenge was getting my voice & body ready to play this role 8 times a week.  ‘Charlie’ is the most challenging role I’ve ever had to sing.  It’s also a role that has very little downtime during the show so you’re constantly onstage or running around backstage to get ready for your next entrance.  While I learned the role as an understudy and performed it a handful of times before taking over, I knew it would be a totally different beast to get used to playing the role 8 times a week for an entire year.  I immediately took more voice lessons to work on the role and started working out & eating better.  It still takes a lot of focus to maintain that vocal/physical health, but at this point, I’ve definitely learned what my routine needs to be to do the show.

What do you like most about playing Charlie? Is there a favorite number or scene that you look forward to most each performance?

I love that this role has a little bit of everything.  There’s comedy and drama, I get to be the good guy and the bad guy, there’s a little dancing and a lot of great songs that are a blast to sing…it’s really kind of a rare thing to be able to play such variety within 1 role.  I’d say that my favorite number can change from day to day.  It kind of depends on what mood I’m in and each number kind of allows you to express something slightly different.  But the Act 1 finale “Everybody Say Yeah” is always a fun one.  Almost the entire cast is involved and it kind of turns into a party onstage. Plus-we get to dance on treadmills-which was terrifying at first, but is now kind of a blast!

What is the most challenging number or scene to perform?

I’d have to say “Soul of a Man” and the scene leading up to it.  Not only is it vocally challenging, but it really requires you to spill your guts onstage and/or “open a vein” as Cyndi put it.  You really have to dig down deep and go full out every night with the song…otherwise it just doesn’t have the same impact.  After being so nasty to the factory workers and Lola during the scene, you need to give your all in “Soul of a Man” just to get the audience back on your side again.  Over time, the challenge is making that fresh and real every night.  Not being afraid to dig your heels in (no pun intended) while being careful not to blow your voice out so that you can do the show again the next night (or later that day)!

The show has been a smashing success. What aspect of the production do you think is most responsible for connecting with audiences so effectively?

The story and the music.  First of all, the music is amazing!  It’s extremely catchy, accessible, and it truly sounds like pop/rock music-not like musical theater with a pop/rock sound.  I think that has been essential…the soundtrack is one you could listen to every day and I know that there are a lot of people out there that do!  Secondly, the story is wonderful and catches people by surprise.  I think people who don’t know the show come to it expecting just glitter, sparkle, and a light-hearted time.  And while there is definitely some of that in there, I think the story ends up grabbing people and they get sucked into the show in a way they weren’t really prepared for.  That “surprise” factor, the music, and the story in general have been driving forces that have made this show the success that it is.

How do you keep your performance fresh and inspired when you’re doing it over and over again?

A lot of that has to do with the people who are involved in this production.  The vibe backstage is such a positive one and we all truly like each other which makes coming to work so much easier.  And the cast is so wonderful that it makes keeping the performance fresh hardly any work at all.  We all inspire each other to be FULL OUT (as Jerry Mitchell would say) every show…if you aren’t bringing your A game to each performance, you really feel like you’re letting you fellow cast mates down.  It’s also pretty helpful to feed off the amazing audiences’ energy that we get to experience each night!