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Kinky Boots requires proper stretching 

It's all in the heel

Local drag queen Lana Cane, better known as Davey Greene, wears a size 13 in women's shoes. (Yes, 13.) If you're like us, you're probably thinking that makes finding the right footwear a challenge. But Greene, who hosts trivia once a month at Petra's Piano Bar & Cabaret, clings to an old pair of costume boots by Funtasma like a baby does his blankie. The kitchy go-go, disco-style boots have been in his closet since he started doing drag and offer both comfort and style — two important qualities for someone who frequents the stage.

But let's be real: what about safety? And no, we're not talking about how heels can be used as weapons, as Buff Faye, another local drag queen, suggests: "A lady always needs kinky boots! Mine are red, the color of sex and love. And if the crowd gets out of line, I can kick some butt with them, too."

While that may true, tall-heeled boots and stilettos are risky as hell to the wearer as well. One slip and your ankle can snap as quick as a fragile tree limb in a storm — right?

That got us wondering about the 2015 cast of Broadway's Kinky Boots, coming to the Belk Theater this week and returning in December due to anticipated foot traffic (pun intended). These performers aren't immune to injuries, but so far they've been lucky with the show's custom-designed footwear keeping them on their toes and off the floor.

Steven Booth, who plays the lead role of Charlie Price, believes physical therapy and proper stretching exercises are a huge factor in keeping the cast's feet in good shape. "Being in heels night after night — and I'm not even in them nearly as long as the Angels and Lola — takes a toll on your body, so everybody has a set of stretches and things they do pre-show. We can also sign up for appointment slots for PT three days out of every week."

While they've been working on mastering the art of walking in stiletto-heeled, knee-high boots — "It took some time for sure, but now it's like putting on a glove," Booth says — the musical's earned numerous Tony Awards. In 2013 alone, it earned six, including those for Best Musical, Best Score, Best Choreography and Best Actor.

Booth plays an ordinary man who inherits his father's shoe factory in Northampton. In a temporary move, he leaves behind his big-city, London life — and a nagging fiancee — to handle business. He has two choices: make the factory profitable or close shop.

After meeting the company's dedicated employees, he feels obligated to revive the business. With that, he rethinks the brand's identity — and his own. The plotline thickens with the entrance of a drag queen named Lola, who is in dire need of a pair of quality boots for the stage.

Based on the 2005 movie of the same title and inspired by a true story, the musical comes alive with melodies from songstress Cyndi Lauper. In "Sex Is in the Heel," Lola shares her disappointment for footwear and expresses the desire for bigger and better heels.

But boots and music aside, Kinky Boots challenges stereotypes about masculinity. As tension between Lola and Don — an intimidating factory supervisor who thinks being a man equates to being tough with a hard outer shell — builds, so does the show's core message of acceptance.

"I think the show helps people in the audience to see that someone like Lola, who is this man in drag, can be more manly than someone like Don because Lola has accepted himself," says Booth. "The main theme of this show is accepting who you are and accepting others for who they are and being who you want to be and not caring what anyone else thinks. That takes a huge amount of courage, and if courage is what it means to be a man, then Lola is the biggest man in the show by far."

Greene, the Charlotte drag queen, admits he's a fan of the film version of Kinky Boots and champions its message. "The story is one of those that teaches that it's OK to be a fun, loud drag queen. We need more of those people in today's age and we need more of the people who aren't afraid to challenge the barriers that have been built and kind of break them down."

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