Tolpegin returns to San Francisco wearing her ‘Kinky Boots’

Anne Tolpegin (Top left, red sweater) and the rest of the cast of "Kinky Boots" comes to San Francisco through Dec. 28th at the Orpheum Theatre. (Photo by Matthew Murphy)

Anne Tolpegin (Top left, red sweater) and the rest of the cast of “Kinky Boots” comes to San Francisco through Dec. 28th at the Orpheum Theatre. (Photo by Matthew Murphy)

Anne Tolpegin is never far from San Francisco.

Take her current home in New York City for example. When Tolpegin was looking for a place to live in the Big Apple, she chose Washington Heights, a neighborhood that reminds her of the hills of San Francisco, a part of town that overlooks the Hudson River. The largely Latino neighborhood that rests at the top of Manhattan Island certainly gives her a taste of San Francisco, the city where she grew up.

For now, Tolpegin has another taste in mind.

“Have you ever been to Gordo Taqueria?” she asks. “They have these sick burritos, and I literally dream about them. When I get there, I’m going to assault those guys and eat all their food.”

It is certainly an understandable sentiment. For anyone who is away from the place they grew up for an extended period of time, the longing for the greatness of that city takes on a romantic, sentimental tone. And while a burrito from the Richmond district will certainly be a perk of coming home, it pales in comparison to the real reason Tolpegin is here in the first place.

The blockbuster Broadway musical “Kinky Boots” makes a month-long stop at the Orpheum Theatre beginning on Wednesday, Dec. 3rd through the 28th. The show, with its book by Harvey Fierstein and music and lyrics by Cyndi Lauper, cleaned house at the 2013 Tony Awards, garnering 13 nominations and winning six, including best musical and best score.

The show is based on the 2005 film of the same name, which in turn is based on a true story. The story follows the agony of Charlie Price, who is now the not-so proud owner of a simple shoe store in England, inherited after his father’s passing. While business is slow and Charlie is uninspired, he finds a loyal customer in drag queen Lola, who needs a pair of women’s shoes. When Charlie discovers that a man cannot realistically wear women’s shoes, he offers to make up a pair especially designed for Lola’s masculine physique. This unlikely partnership helps to build an empire of boots that are heavy on kinkiness and flash.

The show deals with homophobia, friendship, and the pressure that comes from society and parents. Oh, and there are some amazing drag queens that do some crazy-ass athletic dance moves.

Anne Topelgin

Anne Tolpegin

Tolpegin has had quite a career that has led her back to San Francisco. Growing up in the Richmond District allowed her to grasp all of the cultural opportunities San Francisco offers. She is a graduate of University High School in Pacific Heights, and then left the Bay Area for Northwestern University in Evanston, IL, a renowned theatre school in a suburb of Chicago.

“Going to Northwestern was my first big leap away from home,” said Tolpegin. “I was bit by the music bug pretty early. My parents were subscribers to the San Francisco Symphony, and I was certainly influenced by San Francisco’s amazing culture, all of it surrounding me as a kid.”

While those early experiences helped shape what was to be her true calling, it was confirmed with a vengeance while studying in Europe during her college years.

“I was in London and I saw a couple of shows, ‘Chess’ and ‘Les Miserables,’” said Tolpegin. “Those shows just blew my mind, both shows had me shaking in my seat. This was absolutely how I wanted to use any musicality I have.”

Tolpegin has certainly experienced some major highlights in her career, touring with shows such as “Billy Elliot,” “Mamma Mia” and “Ragtime.” But one certainly stands out, being cast in a Toronto production of “Les Miserables.” Playing Jean Valjean in that production was Colm Wilkinson, the originator of the role and a person Tolpegin calls “One of the most fabulous, generous people I’ve ever met.”

Her latest gig, touring with “Kinky Boots” is working out very well for her and her dog Derby, a six-year-old Great Dane/Labrador mix who weighs in at a hefty 110 pounds and whom she’s had since he was a puppy. She has traded airports and hotels for the open road and her pooch, crashing on friend’s couches throughout the country. And coming home also means spending extended time with her parents, who now reside in Sonoma.

For now, Tolpegin is ready to bring “Kinky Boots” to her city, a place where she believes will be thrilled to receive the show and its message of acceptance.

“Coming home to do this show is everything,” she said. “I don’t mean to sound cheesy, but it’s amazing to come home with any kind of work like this, to tell our story and sing this great music.

“I grew up so proud of our city being so progressive, on the edge of all things equality, whether it is religious views, political views, and I knew as a child this was an incredible gift. San Francisco is this incredible city that has always been open to change and being yourself.

“I feel at home with “Kinky Boots” because the message of the show is our city’s message as well.”

WHAT TO KNOW IF YOU GO

SHNSF presents “Kinky Boots”
Directed and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell
Book by Harvey Fierstein
Music and Lyrics by Cyndi Lauper
The Orpheum Theatre
1192 Market Street (at 8th) San Francisco, CA 94102.
Dec. 3rd – 28th
Tickets range from $40 to $210
Running Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes with a 15-minute intermission
Online: www.kinkybootsthemusical.com
For tickets, call (888) 746-1799 or visit www.shnsf.com.

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