The Sex is in the Heel

When thinking of theater and dramatic arts, a few different places might come to mind: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, maybe even Michigan or Boston. Pittsburgh, however, most certainly wouldn’t be at the top of that list unless you were somewhat involved in the entertainment world. Although Carnegie Mellon is well known in the computer science and engineering fields, its contributions to the arts have not been as widely promoted. Alumnae have gone on to earn Academy Awards, Grammys, Emmys, and Tonys. In recent years, the Tony Awards have been dominated by Tartan alumnae. Two years ago, the Best Actor and Best Actress in a Musical categories were both won by former Carnegie Mellon students. And on Aug. 8, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to go to the Benedum Center and watch Billy Porter (CFA ‘91) reprise his role as Lola in Kinky Boots.

Kinky Boots is the 2013 winner of the Tony Award for Best Musical. It tells the story of a man who loses everything and risks the one thing he has left, his father’s factory, on a wild (for the time) idea: boots for drag queens. In the process of saving his father’s legacy, he meets Lola, played by Porter, a drag queen who shows him everything he needs to know about life, love, people, and boots. Boots are important, heels are important, and red is important. These are all things I have learned from the musical in a song about heels.

The show-stopping number “The Sex is in the Heel” is an iconic musical theater number that just lets you know how much production musical theater actually involves. Lights, sets, props, dancers, song, music, costumes: Kinky Boots had everything you could ask for from a big Broadway musical, all in downtown Pittsburgh. The production was truly amazing, and Billy Porter gave such an impressive performance that after a number in the second act (that he nailed) the entire crowd gave him a full 2 minute standing ovation, mid-act.

Billy Porter also visited the campus while he was in Pittsburgh to see his old professors and mentors in the School of Drama. He is a proud alumnus who constantly gives thanks to his education at Carnegie Mellon and truly showcases how impressive the School of Drama is. Recently, it was recognized as one of the top schools in the nation, getting high marks in every category.

In my four years attending Carnegie Mellon, I have had the privilege of attending most plays and musicals that the School of Drama has put on and the operas of the School of Music. The productions over the years have ranged from Sweeney Todd to The Mad Party to The Crucible, and have all been impressive in their own ways. Carnegie Mellon constantly strives for greatness, and if you’re looking to find some great theater, well, you’ve come to the right place.