Scissor Sisters’ Jake Shears and Pentatonix’s Kirstin Maldonado On Slipping Into Their Kinky Boots

Interview   Scissor Sisters’ Jake Shears and Pentatonix’s Kirstin Maldonado On Slipping Into Their Kinky Boots
 
The pop stars talk about making their Broadway debuts with the long-running Tony-winning musical.
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Kirstin Maldonado and Jake Shears Marc J. Franklin

For Scissor Sisters frontman Jake Shears and Pentatonix band member Kirstin Maldonado, stepping out into their Broadway debuts fits like a pair of, well, red leather thigh-high stiletto boots.

The pair are the latest stars to join the cast of Cyndi Lauper’s Tony-winning hit musical Kinky Boots, with Shears taking on the role of down-on-his-luck shoe factory owner Charlie Price beginning January 8, and Maldonado starts February 2 as Lauren, the quirky employee who falls for him as he turns his life and business around with the help of Lola—a drag queen with a million-dollar idea.

Jake Shears and Kirstin Maldonado
Jake Shears and Kirstin Maldonado Nathan Johnson/Embry Lopez

Shears is coming off a ten-year run in the gay glam pop band Scissor Sisters, which rocketed to international stardom with their self-titled debut album in 2004. Since 2012, Shears has been working on his own projects: He’ll release his debut solo album this summer, in addition to a new memoir about his coming of age and moving to New York City.

“This last year has been awesome,” Shears says. “I’ve been squirreled away working, and I’ve been kind of hiding out. It’s really exciting to finally get to step out with all of the stuff I’ve been working on, and I’ve been working on this show super hard. This is one of the most exciting things that’s ever happened to me.”

Maldonado has won three Grammy Awards with the a cappella group Pentatonix, which rose to fame as the winners of NBC’s The Sing Off in 2011 and became an online phenomenon, reaching 13 million YouTube subscribers and over 2 billion YouTube views for their mashups and covers of pop hits. Last summer Maldonado released her first single “Break a Little,” which was followed by her solo debut EP L O V E.

“Coming out of a group, it’s always really fun and creative to do your own thing,” she says. “I was a musical theatre major in college, so that was my goal to move here. Then Pentatonix happened, so that was amazing. I’ve dreamed of being on Broadway since I was a little girl, so it’s really exciting to fulfill two dreams. I think the most fulfilling thing you can do in an artistic career is to do all these different things. I’m so eager and excited to add all this to my rep.”

Shears’ path to Broadway was paved a bit differently; he wrote a musical before he ever considered starring in one. In 2011 he collaborated on the score to the world-premiere musical adaptation of Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City, which had its New York City concert premiere on Broadway last spring. He was also among the stars of a 2015 revival of Bent at the Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles.

“It’s been in my musical DNA since I was a little kid,” Shears says of his arrival on Broadway. “I think musical theatre has really influenced everything I’ve done.

“Being around everybody in Kinky Boots is just so much fun. Everyone is so sweet and supportive, and it’s been a blast,” he says. “Everyone has been so full of love. At first I was very nervous, but everyone has really chilled me out. Rehearsing with these people, I can’t believe how good everybody is. They’re incredible performers, and I just feel like I’m learning something new every minute.”

Both were drawn to the Tony-winning musical’s message of love and acceptance, which continues to ring out on Broadway and across the world since its 2013 premiere. “I’ve seen the show three times, I’ve never seen a show that many times,” Maldonado says. “Every single person who comes in makes the role different, and the story is so special that it continues to build and be changed by each person that goes into it. I’ve realized new things every time I’ve seen it. I’m happy to be part of something that is meaningful, and is true, and inspires and teaches people to accept themselves and everyone around them.”

“I think the show is as relevant now as it was five years ago, maybe even more so in a way,” Shears adds. “There’s a line in the show, ‘You change the world when you change your mind.’ I think that message adds to the tight-knit feeling in the cast. I think everybody involved feels that this is an important message.”

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