Exclusive: In Conversation with Jake Shears

Image via Kevin Tachman

Kinky Boots, the exhilarating production that won six 2013 Tony Awards including “Best Musical,” will be the 21st LA Phil/Hollywood Bowl-produced, fully staged Broadway musical to be presented at the historic venue this summer. Performances are scheduled for July 8, 9, and 10.

Inspired by a true story of an unlikely friendship built around some very unlikely shoes, factory owner Charlie is struggling to save his business while the fabulous Lola has a wildly exciting idea that just might do the trick. With music and lyrics by Cyndi Lauper, an uplifting book by Harvey Fierstein, and direction and choreography by Jerry Mitchell, Kinky Boots is the huge-hearted story of two people with nothing in common—or so they think.

Television personality Wayne Brady and Scissor Sisters frontman Jake Shears played Lola and Charlie on the Broadway stage, and they will be reprising their roles at the Hollywood Bowl.

Instinct caught up with Shears, who formed the iconic glam pop band in 2002 with bandmate Babydaddy (Scott Hoffman). After several years on the electroclash scene in New York and releasing their hits “Comfortably Numb” and “Filthy/Gorgeous,” the Scissors found major success in Europe and ended 2004 with the biggest-selling album of the year in the UK. Outside of the group, Shears has written hits for Kylie Minogue (“I Believe in You”) and collaborated with Tiga, Andy Bell of Erasure, and Boys Noize. 

In 2018, he released his debut memoir Boys Keep Swinging, as well as his eponymous debut solo album. Shears continues to work on several projects, both in music and theater, and he is currently collaborating with Elton John on a musical based on the life of Tammy Faye Baker, which will open in London this fall.

Check out our exclusive interview with Shears below where he talks about reprising his Kinky Boots role, current and upcoming projects, and what more he hopes to accomplish.

Thank you for taking some time to chat with me, Jake! How excited are you to reprise your role as Charlie Price in the Hollywood Bowl production of Kinky Boots?

I’m so stoked! I never thought I would necessarily get to do it again. It’s funny because this last Mardi Gras in New Orleans, I saw Mardi Gras all the way through because it was an important one, we haven’t had one for a while, but I’ve been partying all day and there was still one more party to do. So, I went home and told my friend, I’m just going to get all decked out. I went into my closet and put on these pink frilly panties, a ridiculous pink bejeweled S&M cap, a pink fishnet top, and I pulled out my kinky boots. I haven’t worn them since I was on Broadway.

I went out, gagged all my friends, and it was such a fun time. I never dress like that, and I had a blast. Then I got the call about reprising my role two days later, so I think some Mardi Gras magic happened after I pulled those boots out. I remember thinking how much fun I had doing this show when I was putting them on, so I couldn’t be more thrilled to do it again. Also, it’s at the Hollywood Bowl. It has been my lifelong dream to be on that stage.

You played this role in 2018, and that was your Broadway debut. What was going through your mind at that time, and what do you remember the most from that initial performance?

That I am not a great actor (laughs). Acting is not my real forte. I had done a production event in Los Angeles a couple summers before with Moisés Kaufman and learned a lot, but this was going to be a whole other ballgame because it’s a lead in a big production. I was very aware that I was going to need to work twice as hard as some other people, so I really spent a major amount of time making sure I had this show down.

I’d do rehearsals all day, and then I would go to the theater at night. Stark Sands and Billy Porter were in the show at that time, and I would do one of the acts. I’d stand on the side of the stage or stand in the wings, and I would mime the entire act. I don’t think anybody really does that. Everybody was like, what are you doing? But it worked!

Image via Jake Shears

My first night going out, I remember being like a deer in headlights for the first 15 minutes, but I kept thinking to myself, I’ve worked so hard to make sure I could do this in this moment. I was fine, but I proceeded to work at getting better and better, and then I became very comfortable and had a wonderful time. Going back to do it again, it feels so comfortable. I’m excited and I don’t think I’ll be a bundle of nerves. It’s going to be a lot of fun.

Stark Sands originated the role. Since you succeeded, how did you make Charlie’s character your own?

When I was rehearsing for Kinky Boots, the associate director gave me this book by David Mamet. I don’t know if you’ve been following, but he’s an insane right winger these days. He wrote this book about his performance philosophy, which really helped me. His whole thing in the book was like, you’re not an actor. All you need to do is go out on the stage and say the lines that I’ve written confidently and clearly. That’s all you do.

So, I started going out and saying my lines confidently and clearly, and the role itself kind of became me. I became very comfortable on stage, and Charlie is just a heterosexual version of yours truly. Never say never, but I think my acting skills are still only going to go so far at the moment, but I can definitely make it work and work well.

Wayne Brady starred as Lola in your Broadway production, and he will be returning to the Hollywood Bowl as well to reprise his role. How meaningful is it to work with Wayne again?

Wayne and I had fucking great time together and we had an amazing connection with each other. I’m super excited that he’s going to be doing it again alongside me. When we both got the info, he shot me a really sweet text, and that made me very excited to see him. He’s an amazing person.

Image via Jack Newman

In your opinion, what makes Kinky Boots such a profound and impactful show?

I think the show just has a great basic message, especially the lyrics at the end, ‘Just be who you wanna be, never let ‘em tell you who you ought to be.’ I’ve got a brother who is 20 years older than me and we’re very different. I do love him, but he’s been very Mormon all his life, has a lot of right-wing views, and we’ve never really seen eye to eye. He came to the show on my opening night, and when I looked at him, at one point, he had tears coming down his face. It blew me away to see that.

In certain ways, this show is kind of the thing where I can look at it and be like, this show isn’t for me. This show is almost for people who really need to hear these things. One of the taglines is, ‘you can change the world if you change your mind,’ and I think it’s a great show for that. It’s a great show for people that might not necessarily hear those messages all the time.

Are there any other Broadway shows you would love to be a part of someday?

Yes! I would love to go into a new show sometime. I really, really want to be on stage again in that capacity, and my second musical is opening this fall here in London. I’ve written a musical with Elton John about Tammy Faye Baker, and we’re super excited about it. We’ve been working very hard on it, but looking ahead a couple years after that, I would love to end up writing something that I could be a part of. Originate a role for myself. I need to start thinking about that.

If you could create a musical about anyone else dead or alive, who would it be and why?

Image via Jake Shears

Wow, that’s a tough one. I’ve been casting that net right now because I’ve been kind of waiting for ideas to come, so I have no idea what the answer to that question would be. Just off the top of my head, I know Stephen King’s Carrie didn’t do well, so I’d love to adapt another Stephen King book into a musical and see what happens. I think it could work!  

As we all know, you are the lead singer of Scissor Sisters, and the band has been on hiatus since 2012. Can we expect that break to be over anytime soon?

I think everybody’s pretty much going to be stuck with me (laughs). Basically, I’m just going to take on the mantle. I sing all the songs and I’m done with my next record, which I think people are going to really love.

Yeah, what can you tell us about that?

It’s a dance album. It’s great, it’s a lot of fun, and I’ve worked very hard on it, so I’m super excited to put it out into the world. However, everything I make is all part of the line. I consider it part of the whole body of work.

We have made strides over the last few years when it comes to queer inclusivity in music. Do you think homophobia is still as bad in the industry as it once was?

Image via Kevin Tachman

No, definitely not. Just look at the last 20 years and look at when the Scissors came out. Now, it’s like night and day. When the Scissors came out, the fact that me, Babydaddy, and Del were gay men was all anybody could talk about. Like, that was the thing with media and press, and that was somehow the story. That’s just not the case anymore, and I’m so happy to see that. It really frees people up to be even more creative and do what they do. Of course, there’s still a long way to go with everything, but I think we’re in a much better place than we were.

What more do you hope to accomplish with your career and platform?

I’m 43, so the window that I’m looking at right now is the next seven years before I’m 50, and I just want to keep making albums and working. There’s always ups and downs, but I want to keep working and doing what I love. I want to keep being able to perform, I want to keep being able to write, I’m working on my second book, I love making musicals, I love writing albums, I love getting on stage, I love doing concerts – I want to just keep working and doing all that stuff. That’s all I want to do.

Some years are better than others, some years are slower than others, some years are wild, and some years are boring, but I firmly believe that you just have to keep working. I look at people and some of my heroes like Iggy Pop, who’s in his 70s now and still doing it because he loves it. When you do it for a lifetime, you amass a big body of work, and that’s what I want. I want to make as much stuff as possible.

Also, I’d really like a husband (laughs). I would love to settle down at some point, so that’s my other goal.

Before we wrap up, are there any other upcoming projects or anything else you would like to mention or plug?

Image via Jake Shears

I’ve got a dance music show called Night Work Radio on SiriusXM on Andy Cohen’s music station Kiki Lounge. I do a Friday night show and we recently celebrated our first year, so it’s a lot of fun. I don’t know who’s listening to it, but I sure love making it, and I seldom talk about it. So, I guess I’ll just say that!

Stay up-to-date and connect with Shears by following him on Instagram. Click HERE for more information and to purchase tickets for the Hollywood Bowl’s production of Kinky Boots.


 

1 thought on “Exclusive: In Conversation with Jake Shears”

  1. Jakes looking pretty sexy in some of those pics. It seems very rare that I don’t find something sexy about all gay men.

    Reply

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