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Passing of the Pumps

Two Lolas, Alan Mingo Jr. and Kyle Taylor Parker, bond over life-changing role and sore feet.

By: Bruce DeMara 
Entertainment, Published on Tue Mar 08 2016 

It was a passing of the torch. Or perhaps, considering the show is Kinky Boots, a passing of the pumps.

Alan Mingo Jr., who has starred as the loud and proud Lola in the Mirvish Productions show since it premiered last June 16, took some time out recently to have breakfast with his replacement, Kyle Taylor Parker. Mingo Jr. is heading off to star in the Broadway production while Parker, who is part of the U.S. national touring company and spent three months on Broadway last year as Lola, comes to Toronto.

“Leaving my Kinky Boots family is going to be very, very hard,” Mingo Jr. told Parker. “You’re going to love this company. They’ll take care of you.” “I love the city. The people here are friendly. I kind of say I haven’t been homesick for New York yet and I’ve been here for nine months, because this feels like New York with friendlier people,” he added.

“I don’t know much about it, but I’m really excited to learn a lot about Canada and see as much as I can,” said Parker, noted the varied colours of Canadian currency compared to American. Parker said starring in the Toronto production feels right.

“When it’s time to go, it’s time to go. I’m pretty religious and when God says, ‘It’s time,’ it’s time, there’s something else. My mantra these days is ‘You have nothing left to prove and everything to share.’ And I’m thrilled that I get to share it in Toronto,” Parker said.

“I know to dress warmly. I’ve lived in New York City for 10 years but, before then, it was Wisconsin, so I know the snow,” he added.

“It’ll get warmer, but you’ll probably have to wait to the summer until it gets to be ‘our’ warm,” Mingo Jr. advised. “It’s cold. But I’m spoiled because I live right across the street (from the theatre).”

Mingo Jr. said he’s impressed by Toronto’s multiculturalism. “We have more minorities in our country and we’re still lagging behind, especially in our industry (theatre). I’ve never felt like an outsider here,” he said.

Parker also had advice for Mingo Jr. about the Broadway company of Kinky Boots. “Be yourself. They’re going to love you. That’s it, they will. You’re going to be welcomed with open arms,” 

Both men agree that playing Lola, a London drag queen who saves an aging northern England factory by persuading its reluctant owner to move into a racy new line of footwear, has been “life-changing.” “Every time I get to do this part, I’m filled with pride,” Parker said. “As an actor, I think I’m liberal. But Lola’s character makes you go deeper. It has allowed me to look not at the exterior but the interior. It’s a phrase you may hear, but only a few live it. And when you’re in this character, you have to live it. It has truly changed my life.”

The two also kibitzed about practical matters, like the need for foot care after wearing those hard-on-the-heels shoes on stage. “You can always tell you when it’s Saturday. I know that. Your feet tell you when it’s Saturday,” Parker said, adding he wears toe-spacers onstage to reduce the pain. “How often do you ice your feet?” Mingo Jr. asked Parker, noting the show’s dresser ensures there’s a bucket of ice on hand after every performance. “There’s ice everyday, everyday, and I feel guilty sometimes because it’s cold outside and I don’t do it as much as I should,” Mingo Jr. said.