The road to Broadway started in Boston for Darius Harris who is currently playing Lola in the touring production of Kinky Boots. “I had a sorted childhood, and I had theater for an outlet.”
It all started in the sixth grade when Harris saw “A Chorus Line”. “I saw that movie and I said, I have to do that, I have to be there.” The theater would become his escape. “My home life wasn’t great so I had a lot of extracurricular. I was in the music program at school; I was in show choir, concert choir.”
In addition to the school based activities Harris found that involvement in two local community theaters would offer him refuge from home. “I sort of had theater for an outlet.” This desire to spend much of his time away from home would be help shape his future. “They were instrumental in creating who I am as an actor, a performer, as an artist.”
Leaving Boston for New York directly after High School Harris entered the American Musical and Dramatic Academy. The quick departure was fueled by his desire to leave behind the home he was desperate to flee but with reflection he sees it through a different lens. “Looking back I think I was trying to teach people that I didn’t need family or that life. I didn’t go home for five years and looking back I do regret it. But those years really were amazing, scary, awful and wonderful and shaped my life.”
Upon leaving the NYC school he found theater work including productions at the Arizona Broadway Theater. Then came the break that would really help him create his future path. “About two years into that journey, I did about three shows down there, when I booked Tokyo Disney. It lit my fire and made me some real money so I could return to New York and focus on staying in New York and auditioning for Broadway.”
Upon returning to New York his life was “fast and furious, I was really going for it up to three auditions a day and I really surprised myself that I could do this. He quickly scored the role of Simba in The Lion King in a Disney Cruise Line production, but this is not where his heart was. “In my mind I wanted to be in New York. “ But it was not yet to be his destiny. He was cast in Book of Mormon in Chicago a four month gig that was so successful it ran over a year.
Then came the audition of Kinky Boots, he did well ending up as a finalist for a Lola stand-by “But I did not get the show and I was crushed.” He thought he would never work again. But Kinky Boots did not forget Harris and would soon come calling. “It was a year later and there were murmurs of auditions for the tour. I was talking to my agent and I told him ‘I have to be in this’. They called me in to be seen for the role of Lola.”
Auditioning for such a successful show was not to be a simple one. “I went into one audition and I had to do a whole lot of material. It was like three songs and five scenes. After that initial audition I was chosen to be a part of a boot camp. “
A boot camp while not unheard of is not a typical practice for a Broadway show. “A couple shows have them, shows where one character really carries the story line. Jersey Boys has one for Frankie Valli, Lion King has one for Simba.” Harris would spend a week with three other actors preparing to audition for Harvey Fierstein, Jerry Mitchell and Cyndi Lauper.
At the final call back “I found out that I did not get the role. Which was a little devastating for me but I had done some great work so I was really proud of myself.” But never fear, a week later Harris was called and cast as an angel and Lola’s understudy. Which led him to “really the opportunity of a lifetime”. When Billy Porter’s contract as the Broadway Lola was up for renewal the actor negotiated a three month hiatus to allow him to focus on other projects. The tours’ Lola was called back to New York to don the famous boots and Harris was no longer the understudy.
It will likely surprise some that the transformation into Lola is only a thirty minute process for Harris. “I have a wonderful ‘Glam Squad’ as I like to call them.” But while the daily preparations to take the stage may not be what I thought it would be, the road comes with its’ own challenges. “When your traveling your off one day a week and we’re normally on a plane on that day off.” Likely one of the greatest challenge for a touring actor is the constantly changing climate. “I know you can hear my voice is a little scratchy and it’s because the cities are always different. We are asked to be consistent in the show every night and if it’s cold or your hotel room is really dry and your throat is all dried out its’ taxing.
While facing the challenges of the road Harris is delighting audiences and critics who are raving about the show and it’s Lola. Don’t miss your chance to see the winner of Six Tony Awards including Best Musical and Best Score, written by Cyndi Lauper.
See Harris’ transformation into Lola in Kinky Boots at Houston’s Hobby Center through February 22nd. Tickets are $47-$133 and are available at http://www.tuts.com/. Dallas at the Music Hall at Fair Park February 24th-March 8th. Tickets are $25.00-$108.00 and are available at http://www.dallassummermusicals.org/ The Metroplex gets another visit October 27th-November 1st when the show lands at Bass Hall. Information at http://www.basshall.com/ Tickets are not on sale for this performance yet.
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