THE LEADING MEN: Tony Nominees Billy Porter and Stark Sands Kick Up Their Heels in Broadway's Kinky Boots

By Michael Gioia
06 May 2013

Stark Sands
Photo by Monica Simoes

A STARK CONTRAST

Stark Sands received his second Tony Award nomination April 30. The actor, who was previously nominated for Journey's End, earned his first Leading Actor in a Musical nomination for his performance as Charlie Price in Kinky Boots and finds himself alongside co-star Billy Porter in the same category for the 2013 Tonys. Although the actors will go toe to toe for Broadway's biggest prize, Sands admitted that he's been rooting for Porter all along. The two-time Tony nominee, who has also been seen on Broadway in American Idiot, wasn't giving himself enough credit at the May 1 Tony Awards press junket. His dynamic performance in the new Broadway musical is parallel with Porter's. His voice soars on Lauper's "The Soul of a Man," and his argumentative confrontations with Porter on stage at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre burn right through the character of Lola. Also, who could resist the dashing leading man when he takes his bow in a pair of red leather "Kinky Boots"?

Congratulations on your Tony nomination! How excited are you?
SS: I'm pretty excited. I'm flabbergasted, you know. I was rooting for my co-star, Billy Porter, and some other performances that I've seen this season, so when they said my name, I kind of blacked out a little bit. My wife started running around the room crying and screaming, and it's just an absolute honor — just to be recognized at all — especially in a season like this, where there are so many commendable performances that, I think, deserve to be nominated. I am honored.



How does it feel to be up against your co-star, Billy Poter? Is there a bit of competitiveness?
SS: I've been campaigning for Billy Porter since Chicago for this, and I'm not going to stop now. There's no competitiveness at all. I am telling everyone to vote for Billy because I think he deserves it. I couldn't do the show without him, and my job — as I've seen it — has been to facilitate this story and to assist Billy and help him give a fabulous performance. So I feel like I've been doing my job, and I'm going to keep doing it.

Sands in Kinky Boots.
photo by Matthew Murphy

You and Billy share that touching moment in the show, "I'm Not My Father's Son." What was that like last night following the announcement of the Tony nominations?
SS: The whole show was incredible last night because, obviously, we're riding a wave — not just me and Billy. It's Annaleigh Ashford and [choreographer] Jerry Mitchell and [book writer] Harvey Fierstein and [composer-lyricist] Cyndi Lauper and [scenic designer] David Rockwell and [costume designer] Gregg Barnes, [lighting designer] Kenny Posner, [sound designer] John Schivers — everybody that conceivably could have been nominated got nominated, so everybody was excited. And the audience was excited, too — they could feel it. It was just on another level last night. I was running on fumes a little bit, in a way, because I'd been up all morning, and I didn't get a nap, but it was great. Specifically for that moment — for me and Billy — it [was] the one part of the show where our director didn't… He kept his hands off of it. When we first staged it a year-and-a-half ago, he told us, "You guys do whatever you want for this. Move when you want to move. Stand when you want to stand. Sit when you want to sit. I just want to see what happens." And, the way that we did it the first time is the way that it stayed — in terms of physical movement. And, he's never given us any overarching notes about it because it's honest, and it's been honest from the beginning.

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