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Broadway producer Ken Davenport talks Cyndi Lauper, 'Kinky Boots' and podcasts

Broadway producer Ken Davenport
Photo credit:
davenporttheatrical.com

Ken Davenport is a man of many talents who wears a lot of different hats. 

The Broadway producer behind shows like Kinky Boots and the recent production of Spring Awakening which featured a mixed cast of hearing and non-hearing actors who performed and signed the entire show, has been in the foreground of amplifying the scope and reach of the American theater to a wider audience, and at the ripe young age of 43 shows no signs of slowing down.

He’s been an active blogger since 2008 and in January of 2015 expanded that blog into a podcast called The Producer’s Perspective in which he interviews people involved in every aspect of New York’s theater community from the ushers and critics to the composers and directors.

I recently spoke with Mr. Davenport for SDGLN, we talked about being a producer, Cyndi Lauper, and the changing face of theater.

“The first question is always, ‘Is this something I want to see?’” Davenport began.  “No one gets into this business because of the money.  It’s too hard; it’s too risky, and most shows don’t work.  We go into it because we love this business, love the theater.  I produce the shows that I love and that I want to see.”

It was this process of searching for exciting shows that led to his work with, out, bisexual actor Alan Cumming and his one man version of Shakespeare’s MacBeth. 

Davenport freely admits that while he enjoys the Bard’s work from an academic point of view, he has never really been a big fan of most productions.  However, when he heard of Cumming’s modern treatment of the classic tragedy, he was intrigued.

“I called it MacBeth: SVU.  It was an hour and forty minutes long, a one man show and he literally had sex with himself during one of the scenes between MacBeth and Lady MacBeth.  I knew that it was something that I wanted to see myself and so I knew it would find its audience.”

The production ran for a limited engagement on Broadway, and was one of the hottest tickets in town at the time, but it was another of Davenport’s productions opening at the same time that would garner the most attention that year.  That show was Kinky Boots, and Davenport was excited and honored to be a part of the team of producers who brought the show to Broadway.

Featuring a score written by none other than Cyndi Lauper and a book by the incomparable Harvey Fierstein, the show was nominated for thirteen Tony Awards that year and took home six including Best Score for Ms. Lauper and Best Musical of the Year. 

The producer said that you could not have a better advocate for a show than Cyndi Lauper.

“She does a show, she writes an album, and she’ll promote it, but she also talks about Kinky Boots like crazy.  There were times where she actually told the press, ‘I’m not doing your interview unless we can talk about Kinky Boots.’”

While the road has not always been edgy theater and award winning musicals, Davenport remains excited about the theater and its continued evolution calling it an essential art form.

“The theater isn’t going anywhere," he said. "The theater has survived the radio, the television, the internet boom.  It will survive virtual reality, all of it.  In fact, it will not only survive in it, but it will thrive in it because live entertainment is going to be more rare.”

And what will the face of that theater be? 

According to Davenport, we are heading toward more immersive experiences in live theater.  Citing the fact that the new generation of theater goers were born into a world where not only have there always been cellphones, but you can actually use that cellphone to make a movie, now. 

These theater goers grew up playing first person video games where they get to choose the outcomes.  They get to be a part of the adventure, and soon they will want that in their live theater experiences, as well.

“All of this stuff is a part of the next generation’s world.  They’re going to start demanding that from the entertainment that is made for them and the creative ones are going to start creating entertainment that does just that.  It will get more immersive, and it will be more involved.  The days of the fourth wall theater are over or soon will be.”

It goes without saying that Ken Davenport will be a part of this evolution.  You can read more about Ken and find more information about his blog and podcast HERE