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Kinky Boots star: The West End must continue to represent black gay actors

Darren Bell / Matt Crockett

As Kinky Boots continues to spread a message of love and acceptance across the West End, its new star is hopeful the same can be done for the actors on the stage, too.

Actor Simon-Anthony Rhoden has stepped into the shoes of Oliver Award-winning actor Matt Henry as drag sensation Lola.

The show – brought together by Harvey Fierstein, Jerry Mitchell and Cyndi Lauper – tells a story of love and acceptance. All that while confirming that the world is sure to be a better place if we all strutted around in towering red heels.

Speaking exclusively to Gay Times at Kinky Boots’ official media night around the representation of black actors in the West End, Simon remained hopeful that the opportunities continue to open for black actors of any sexual orientation.

“I think the roles are coming,” he tells us of the slow but moving progression. “This role (Lola) isn’t specific to a black homosexual man, it’s a black man who puts on a dress. That can be interpreted in any way that the actor wants to take on the part.

“I think we still need to put more parts out there for homosexual men, for black men, and for homosexual black men. We’re going in the right direction.”

Adding that the opportunities for gay men playing gay roles maybe aren’t at the levels he would like. “At the moment, there doesn’t seem to be as many,” Simon begins.  “I thank the heavens that a role like Lola has come along and I think this show articulates the point of difference and acceptance.

“When people come and see the show and hear the story, it doesn’t matter if you’re a man who wants to put on a dress or a man who loves another man. If you’re a woman who loves another woman or a boy who now wants to be a girl. If you want to be who you are, then be it!

Related: Strut into the Land of Lola with a first look at new cast of Kinky Boots

Dave Benett, Getty

Co-star Verity Rushworth – Yes, actual Donna from Emmerdale – adding that she’s hopeful her involvement in the musical will change anti-LGBT+ attitudes across the city.

“It doesn’t matter who you love, your sexual orientation or if you want to wear women’s boots. If you want to go out with a shark – it doesn’t matter. Love is love and you are who you are. You shouldn’t judge people. You should be accepted for who we are and that’s it. That’s what the world should progress to be like.

“If every 12-year-old came to watch this show, hopefully they’ll take that forward and the world will, please, become a more equal place to live in. I love being a very small part of that!”

Matt Crockett

Fellow Kinky Boots star David Hunter – who plays Charlie Price in the show – confirming to us that this story of acceptance is one we all need a healthy dose of right now – political climate and all.

“The world as it is right now could do with this message over and over and over again,” David tells us before laughing about the pain of wearing those luscious towering boots. “I don’t remember having feelings in my little toe anymore.

“As soon as you throw them on, it gives you a bit of a Mick Jagger strut – as soon as they’re on! I can’t walk in them, but I can strut in them.”

Simon making reference to his leap from understudy to star is one that not even he could have imagined. “Going into the third year, I thought they’d never take a chance on somebody like me. I’m so grateful that they did.”

“It’s a journey. It’s an incredible story, absolutely, but where I started to how I got here, there’s been so much work and rehearsals and practice and more practice. Talking and singing lessons that it does feel, personally, like a natural progression.”

Related: Watch Todrick Hall lip sync for his life ahead of Kinky Boots Broadway debut

Dave Benett, Getty

And the Angels? Verity and Simon are equally as gagged with the troupe of drag queens on stage – proving that the sex really is in the heel.

“Oh, babes – those legs,” laughs Verity as she becomes a little camper with excitement. “Those legs are ridiculous. They’re amazing. Lovely George in his bikini? I gave him a little slap on the bum before he went on. OH MY GOD IT WAS LIKE HITTING A BRICK! It was solid. WHAT?! They are amazing!”

Simon adding: “The tucking is pretty talented as well!”

More information on Kinky Boots can be found here.

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