Casting of 'Kinky Boots' in Australia Reveals Issues with Character Descriptions

kinky2.jpg
Untitled+collage+(1)+(1).jpg

Next month, CLOC Musical Theatre in Victoria, Australia will be performing their production of Kinky Boots. This past week they revealed come of the cast photos. Needless to say, there was some surprise over their choice for Lola/Simon.

The role of Lola/Simon being played by a white actor(Aaron Taylor-Tedford). Given the casting choice, the lyrics for “The Land of Lola” probably have to be changed…

The reaction to the casting has not gone over well and people are making their voices heard on CLOC’s FB page.

I’m definitely disappointed in CLOC’s casting choices, but I’m not surprised. First of all because it’s Australia and they have a penchant for whitewashing their shows. But also because according to licensing materials, Lola/Simon doesn’t have to be played by a black actor. And therein lies the problem.

While the character has always been portrayed with a black actor in the role, according to the character description on MTI’s website, there is no race requirement for the role. Meaning that any person of any race can portray it.

Given some of the lyrics and dialogue in the piece, I am a bit surprised that a race requirement was not attached with the role. At the same time, perhaps the creative team thought it would have been obvious that this role was written for a black performer.

But by not making that explicit in the licensing materials, it gives theatre companies a lot of flexibility on how to cast this role. And as licensing is about to become available in the U.S., I’m concerned that more companies are going to follow CLOC’s lead.

However, Kinky Boots isn’t the only show that’s facing issues like these. Sister Act is another one. While the role of Delores has been played by a black woman in the movie and original Broadway cast, the licensing agreement doesn’t mention her race at all. This is the reason why we’ve seen many amateur productions with all-white casts.

So while I do not agree with CLOC’s casting choices, they aren’t violating the wishes of the writers of the show based on how the characters are described.

There are countless roles out there that can certainly be played by any race. But one that described themselves as a “Cocoa Butter Bitch” should always be portrayed by a black performer. I’m hoping the creative team and MTi make some changes to the character descriptions.