Wayne Brady Opens Up About His Father — And Dragging It Up as Beyoncé

Special Features   Wayne Brady Opens Up About His Father — And Dragging It Up as Beyoncé
 
We learn why the Emmy winner's upcoming star turn in Kinky Boots has been in the making for years.
Wayne Brady in <i>Kinky Boots</i>
Wayne Brady in Kinky Boots Joan Marcus

Wayne Brady in <i>Kinky Boots</i>
Wayne Brady in Kinky Boots Photo by Joan Marcus

"Like Lola, I know what it's like to have people want you to be one thing, but you know that you're something else," says Wayne Brady, who steps into Kinky Boots on Nov. 21. "It definitely resonates."

"My dad, God bless his soul, was for most of my life an army drill sergeant: very G.I. Joe and by the book," he continues. "Really awesome guy. I loved my dad, but I was growing up in the kind of household where a performing arts career wasn't practical."

"While he was a soldier, everyone else like his sister and all my cousins, they all have 'real-world jobs' and are professionals and very responsible," continues Brady. "Rarely do you come from a household where everybody goes: 'Yay! You want to be onstage and be broke most of your life and live a life of uncertainty and maybe not have insurance?' Most parents don't do that." 

"When I graduated from high school we had a tremendous falling-out over my chosen craft," he continues. "Luckily, he came around. But I know what it's like to have everyone looking at what you do and refuse it — for them to say: 'That's not going to be the thing for you.'"

Brady's real-life situation is not unlike Lola's in Kinky Boots, whose own father wanted him to be a boxer, not a drag performer. Despite the challenges, the fabulous and fierce Lola finds the strength to be herself — inspiring the show’s central character Charlie Price. (Billy Porter's performance as the infectious and dazzling Lola earned him a 2013 Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical.)

Wayne Brady in <i>Kinky Boots</i>
Wayne Brady in Kinky Boots

Brady, who describes himself as "ecstatic" to take on the role of Lola, says, "How often does a role like Lola come along? Such a great, fierce, independent, strong character who's [also] very vulnerable. She's one of the strongest people there onstage just by the fact that she's willing to be who she is."

Brady says that he "jumped at the chance" to succeed Porter in the role. "I'd already seen it a couple times — with Billy of course — and I was a fan of the movie," he explains.  "When I heard that the musical was being made in the first place, I was freaking out and I was hoping that I would get a chance to do it."

Brady has been busy getting into shape for the role. "You don't want to be the guy that looks like you're a guy stuffing yourself into a dress," he says. "Getting ready for it is a big part, and I'm working out and training."

He's also received a few tips from Porter on how to physically prepare for Kinky Boots: "He said I better get ice packs ready for my feet. That's the part that I really wanted to know the most about."

Brady confesses that "oddly enough" he already has a bit of experience with dancing in high heels. During the run of his Las Vegas show, Making Sh*t Up, he would regularly perform in drag. "The closing number was a big number with complete Beyoncé drag. With the back-up dancers…we had to learn the 'Single Ladies' choreography and we did it in the dress and heels." 

"It was the first time I've ever had to dance in heels, and I'll say, it's a comedy of errors if you don't do it right," he admits. "I'm hoping to get a lot of help in navigating the Kinky Boots part."

The uplifting musical teaches the audience the importance of staying true to ourselves — a lesson that Brady is now passing down to his own daughter, a musical theatre star in-the-making herself.

"I think that's going to happen whether I'm involved or not," says the proud father. "She loves to sing and she has such a beautiful voice. She's also a dancer and she's good. I just saw her do the Wicked Witch in a version of The Wizard of Oz."

Wayne Brady in <i>Kinky Boots</i>
Wayne Brady in Kinky Boots Photo by Joan Marcus

It's not dificult to see where she gets it from. Brady made his Broadway debut as Billy Flynn in Chicago in 1996 and is an Emmy winner and multiple nominee for his role in the improv comedy TV series "Whose Line Is It Anyway?"

Brady says he delights in his daughter's shared love of musical theatre; the two have been listening to the Hamilton cast album together. "We had it on pre-order, so we were ready," says Brady, who has seen the Broadway blockbuster three times now.

In between rehearsals for Kinky Boots and staying in shape, it's hard to imagine Brady will have the opportunity to see the show a fourth time while in New York. His latest Broadway role is something the actor is taking very seriously.

"It's probably going to be the most demanding role I've had to do in, I think, most of my career," he says. "I relish the challenge."

To purchase tickets to see Kinky Boots visit KinkyBootstheMusical.com

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