By Michelle de Carion

When Juan Torres-Falcon, a member of the ensemble cast in Kinky Boots, heard that the show was coming to Miami on their national tour this year, he knew without a doubt it was going to be a big hit.

The 6-time Tony Award-winning musical is based on the true story of a drag queen in London who helps a young shoe factory owner design red, kinky boots for crossdressers. Lola and her drag angels inspire the audience to “just be who you wanna be,” and “accept yourself and others too.”

Not only is Miami native Falcon excited to return home as a professional performer on Broadway, but he is also elated to share the message of Kinky Boots with his hometown since it is one he feels needs to be heard in the community.

During the week of the show’s run from December 8-13, Falcon and some of the other cast members participated in a talk back event with 50 lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender teens. The kids went backstage to meet the cast, ask them questions, and learn choreography.

“When I was asked to do that it almost made me cry because I realized that I would have loved to go to an event like that as a young, 15-year-old queer in South Florida,” Falcon said. “I would have loved to have seen Kinky Boots in high school because art is most powerful when it reflects life, and when it makes someone feel heard. And if our community can embrace the LGBT community–especially transgender people–and the most disenfranchised, and the most forgotten by starting with our young people and empower them with love, then Miami can soar.”

Falcon says that even though Miami is such a diverse city and has evolved a lot over the years, there is still a lot of homophobia and fear of “the other” in this city.

“It’s a shame,” he said, “…because we have so much potential as a city and as an arts community with everything that’s growing—Art Basel was just last week,” Falcon said. “We have all of these amazing things in place and yet there is still a lot of fear with all that is queer and LGBT. Our neighbors to the north, Fort Lauderdale, have done a lot more work when it comes to outreach in the community and also as a culture that is not only receptive, but inclusive, to gays and especially transgender people.”

J. Harrison Ghee as Lola, photos by Matthew Murphy (1)

Falcon hopes that Kinky Boots touches a lot of hearts in Miami and that this is the start of the next stage of Miami’s evolution and growth. The star of Kinky Boots, J. Harrison Ghee, who plays Lola also hopes that this show opens people’s minds and makes them more accepting of others who are different.

When Ghee’s father first learned he was a professional drag queen performing in New York City, it was very difficult for him to accept his lifestyle. But now years later, Ghee is strutting his stuff on Broadway, and his family has become more understanding of who he is.

“This show has changed my life in so many ways,” Ghee said. “I grew up in a religious family. My dad’s a pastor, and him learning that I’ve been a drag queen and that I’m performing in heels and doing all of this has been hard for him. But he knows it’s a part of my job and my creative outlet, and what I do, and he respects and understands that now. My family and I have gotten so much closer together because of this show.”

Ghee was performing in his own drag show called “The Crystal Fix” at the New World Stage’s Timeout Lounge when his friends encouraged him to try out for the role of Lola because they felt the story was written for him.

Ghee started out as a swing in the show, then after being an understudy for Lola joined the national tour as the lead. The song “Not My Father’s Son” is particularly close to his heart.

“Every night, my associate director instructs me to get close to the fire, to get close to the flame because it hits so close to home,” Ghee said. “I always say Cyndi Lauper must have had someone watching my life with some of the lyrics she chose, specifically the lyrics ‘with the strength of Sparta and the patience of Job.’ My father has a PhD in philosophy and history and is a minister, so for me to say that line every night is very emotional for me. It’s very therapeutic to be able to do this and share my story, whether the audience knows it or not.”

Ghee adds that aside from the message of love and acceptance, he hopes the audience just has fun when they see the show. They refer to the tour as “the big fab fun machine.”

“It’s a fun time, and it really is a family show that encourages you to remain open to what life has to offer,” Ghee said. “And just be who you want to be because that’s the fun of being individuals and being human, and being alive. This is about simply being who you are, staying true to that and letting that shine bright.”

Kinky Boots will return to South Florida from March 1-13, 2016 at the Broward Performing Arts Center.

To purchase tickets visit: http://browardcenter.org/events/detail/kinky-boots

Photo Credits: Matthew Murphy

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