The Great Big Beautiful Podcast, Episode 189: J. Harrison Ghee
This week, we’re going to Broadway, baby! The wild, wonderful, kinky side of Broadway—with J. Harrison Ghee and Kinky Boots!
If you’re unfamiliar, Kinky Boots tells the story of Charlie Price, who has just inherited his father’s shoe factory, and Lola—a drag queen—with whom Charlie has a chance encounter that changes his life. To save the dying factory, Charlie and Lola team up to change the product and target a niche audience. They start making specially designed high-heeled, thigh-high “kinky boots” for the drag community. It’s no understatement to say that the character of Lola is BY FAR the more interesting and fully realized of the two leads.
And Ghee’s performance (currently on Broadway) only heightens the character and takes Lola into the stratosphere. Ghee takes you on a ride as Lola, and by the end of the show, you’ll be head over heels in love with her. And you’ll be left wondering how Ghee could possibly do this up to eight times a week.
Kinky Boots is based on a 2005 film of the same name (which, in turn, was based on a 1999 documentary), was written by Cyndi Lauper and Harvey Fierstein, and debuted on Broadway in 2013. It went on to receive 13 Tony Award nominations that year, and it ultimately won 6, including Best Musical and Best Score.
The show is about so many things—acceptance, empathy, dignity, and the freedom to be yourself—but there’s also an underlying theme of fatherhood and unmet expectations that form the backbone of the show and defines the two main characters. I wrote up a piece that dives a bit deeper into the show and its theme of unmet expectations—particularly with respect to our fathers. Do check it out, if you’re interested.
On this episode, I talk to Ghee about how he got his start on the stage, his stint at Tokyo Disneyland, his many personal parallels with Lola and Kinky Boots, what the show means to him personally, and what it means to “be a man.”
(I do not own the musical excerpts used in this episode, obviously. All rights remain with their respective copyright holders.)