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These boots

The national tour of the musical hit "Kinky Boots" plays a one-night-stand May 3 in the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts. 

In the beginning, there was real life.

As in: the true story of one Steve Pateman, a straight-laced Brit who set out to save his family's failing Northamptonshire-based shoe factory.

Salvation came in the form of a new line of "fetish footwear for men," meaning boots for drag queens, dubbed Divine Footwear.

The story was chronicled in a highly rated 1999 BBC2 TV documentary.

It was enough to inspire writers Geoff Deane and Tim Firth six years later to turn the true tale into a quirky British movie comedy, called "Kinky Boots," with Joel Edgerton as Pateman (renamed Charlie Price) and Chiwetel Ejiofor as the black drag queen Lola who becomes his unlikely partner in the enterprise.

The movie was only a modest box office success that received middling reviews ... the tepidness of which wasn't enough to stop pop chanteuse Cyndi Lauper and actor-playwright Harvey Fierstein from turning it into what we'll see at 7:30 p.m. May 3 on the stage of the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts.

Namely, the national tour of the stage musical version of "Kinky Boots," which debuted on Broadway five years ago and left town packing six Tony Award wins out of a whopping 13 nominations.

"It's a fun spectacle, with good tunes, some great performances and an amazing message," says Jace Reinhard, the touring production's resident Illinois native (born in Mount Vernon, raised in Greenville, an hour south of Springfield).

On board with the tour since August, Reinhard is pulling double duty: as Richard Bailey, the businessman who tries to talk Charlie into selling off the factory for a condo development; and as understudy for Charlie himself, a role he's already taken for at least 30 performances of the tour to date.

In the past three years, the show has passed through Peoria (2015) and, most recently, Springfield.

The BCPA stand is the musical's first Twin Cities exposure.

For Reinhard, both the show and his current residency (Queens, N.Y., where he lives with his wife) are about as far away from Greenville (pop. 7,000) as you can get.

"There wasn't a ton going on, and for years you could pass anyone on the street, they'd give you a nod and you'd know who was greeting you," says the small-town Illinoisan who went to college in Texas then made the move to New York.

The show, which celebrates diversity in all its shapes, sizes, colors and sexual paths, is not the stuff of Midwest town life.

And Queens "is one of the most diverse, densely populated neighborhoods in the entire world.

"So, yes, it was a bit of a culture shock adjusting to things," says Reinhard, now fully adjusted and celebrating it.

"Kinky Boots" is his first experience with a big national tour, and he's loving it every, well, step of the way.

"What's funny, though, is when it comes to the theater world, it's the smallest community in the big city ... you're always running into people you know from auditions or the theater district. It's weird how that happens."

Though his main role as Richard Bailey isn't as flashy as Charlie or Lola, Reinhard is enjoying being part of the ensemble, which also means being on call to take over the lead role at short notice, due to the actor's illness or injury.

One time, the call came mid-show, thanks to an on-stage mishap that felled the leading man beyond any hope of returning for Act Two.

"You never hope for that to happen ... but it's the kind of thing you have to be prepared for to complete a show." 

The current touring production involves a total of 55 actors and crew, and requires two tour buses and three flatbed semitrailer trucks to get "Kinky Boot's from here to there.

"Actually, thankfully the original Broadway production was rather minimalist itself, with some large set pieces, not too terribly many," says Reinhard.

Despite the show's gender-bending themes and proudly gay sensibility, no feathers have been ruffled, so speak.

"We opened in South Dakota in September and we've played a lot of different venues throughout the Midwest, and almost everywhere we get a pretty strong positive reaction despite people feeling the subject matter might be polarizing," says Reinhard.

"By the end of the show, the message that has been put forth is one of love and acceptance before making snap judgments, and we do it in a way that's very accessible ... even to people who wouldn't be at all familiar with the subject.

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