Look how Harrogate Operatic Players are preparing to return to the stage with Cyndi Lauper's musical Kinky Boots

There are so many facets to staging a musical that an audience never gets to see – every aspect has to be ‘West End’ standard.

Friday, 12th November 2021, 8:19 am
Updated Friday, 12th November 2021, 8:48 am

Members of Harrogate Operatic Players take to the stage in Kinky Boots at Harrogate Theatre early next year. Based on the 2005 British film Kinky Boots, written by Geoff Deane and Tim

Firth and mostly inspired by true events, the musical tells the story of Charlie Price.

Having inherited a shoe factory from his father, Charlie forms an unlikely partnership with cabaret performer and drag queen Lola to produce a line of high-heeled boots and save the business.

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The Players production team is already at work bringing the show to life.

Some of the key characters in the show are Lola, aka Simon, and ‘her’ Angels – a cast of drag artists.

“Making Lola and her angels believable is key to the story, creating drag make up is a skill, so we knew we had to do something special,” said chairman of the company and the show’s costume designer Richard Lill.

“We approached Vicky Findlow, customer relations manager at White Rose Beauty Colleges, to see if they would partner with us with their Harrogate college.

“We are passionate about what we do and securing the future of musical theatre, this can only be done by inspiring the next generation to consider a career in theatre.

“This was our motivation to help kick start their careers giving them that all important ‘on job”’ experience. They jumped at the chance to allow their students to gain experience in a real life professional environment,” he aid.

Once the show was cast, to Lola and her Angels it quickly became very clear this was going to be more than just putting on a bit of mascara and lipstick!

All auditionees were briefed on what would be expected – this included shaving all parts of their bodies and spray tans.

“All this would be in vain if the makeup was not convincing,” said Richard.

Christopher Mooney plays Lola. He said: “This is a dream come true for me; the amazing songs from the show are vocally demanding and require a great deal of preparation, almost as much as the ‘manscaping’.

“The photo shoot was only two weeks before my wedding, my wife Jessica was very understanding about what it meant to commit fully to the role, she even helped with the waxing.”

The first part of the process was to photograph the naked faces so the college could start on the “face plans”. This was followed by a trial where the students were given free rein to explore their creativity within the brief.

Only half the face is made up, this shows the transformation clearer so adjustments can be made.

The easiest way to explain the make-up process is by saying the make-up team start by “rubbing out” the features creating a blank canvas, then one by one they start to put the features back in. “It was fascinating to see that with the skillful use of make up noses, eyes, lips and cheek bones are all created,” said Richard.

The next test for the students was to recreate the look under the pressure and time restraints of a professional photo shoot.

Fashion photographer David Dresser worked with the students.

“To get the best results a shoot needs to run like clockwork, some times looks plotted on paper don’t transpose through the lens, so you need a team who can adapt and change things without question.

“We pushed the students and they were brilliant. A good attitude and work ethic is vital and trying to get seven cast members ‘camera ready’ is no easy task when you have a heavy schedule of shots to achieve,” he said.

The choreography and dance moves were another challenge for the cast.

Lola and the angels – Mimi, Cha Cha, Mercedes, Cher, Ivana and Vixen – have to deliver dance in killer heels under the heat of the lights and make the make-up last.

Sarah Gilpin, White Rose College principal, shared the secrets of great stage make-up. “It’s the preparation of the face and skin that is key. You need something for the make-up to hold on to, then it’s all about powdering and fixing the final look in place.

“We have some of the best teachers and mentors, they have worked on films and TV shows. It’s rare for our students to get the chance to plan, present the concept, work on a photo shoot then have to recreate the looks night after night in the theatre for a client. We jumped at the chance.”

Kinky Boots runs at Harrogate Theatre from Tuesday, February 1 to Saturday, February 5, daily at 7.30pm and a Saturday matinee at 2.30pm.