PLAYBILL ON OPENING NIGHT: Kinky Boots; Some Girls Just Wanna Give Fun

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05 Apr 2013

Annaleigh Ashford
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Annaleigh Ashford, who started the season as the sad, toothless tart in the Dogfight competition, finished it pretty much on top of the world with a surefire shot at the Tony, as the love-struck factory-worker who wins Sands' heart. Talk about your everyman candidate, she was adorable — and everybody in the house knew it.

"It was magic," she assessed, still coming down from her triumph. "The audience totally understood what was happening and was with me every step of the way. I think we're telling a real story, and everyone in the audience can relate to every person on stage. It's exciting to watch. The heartbeat reaches the back of the house."

She was quick to lateral a lion's share of credit to Lauper. "…When she got to know me and Stark and Billy, she started writing not only for the character but for how we were playing the character, so I feel like we really got to collaborate within the songs. What she wrote for me — I mean, I couldn't possibly be more grateful to her than I am."

What she wrote for her was the ultimate sadder-but-wiser-girl lament, "The History of Wrong Guys," and Ashford wrung every laugh and emotion out of it, and, when it was over, she tucked the audience in her pocket and took them home with her.



Kudos, too, to her first Broadway director. "Jerry gave me my Broadway debut. He's directed two Broadway shows, and I'm proud to be in both: Legally Blonde and this."

Director Mitchell, tall and lanky as ever and graying (no doubt with cause!) around the edges, was blissed out over the good job his cast had done. "Billy's phenomenal," he started off. "He's one of those moments when the right role and the right actor come together. It reminds me of the first time I worked with Norbert [Leo Butz] in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and, the second time, in Catch Me If You Can — a role and an actor coming together and making that magical thing happen at just the right time.

"Stark also. The thing is Stark doesn't have the showy part. What's so great about his performance is, after he fires everybody and yells at Billy, then sings 'Soul of a Man,' you still hear the audience loves him. He just alienated everyone within distance — that is a real testament of just how much you love an actor just for being his person."

Ashford's triumph was a particular source of pride for him. "Annaleigh came in for Legally Blonde. She was the only actress to make me laugh on that first scene where she's supposed to be talking to the dog. I said to her, 'You're Goldie Hawn, aren't you?' I've been in love with her from that day on. She's a brilliant comic actress."

Continued...

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