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Brendon Urie of Panic! at the Disco Talks Manchester, ‘Kinky Boots’ and Walking in Heels

Variety logo Variety 5/25/2017 Gordon Cox
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Panic! at the Disco frontman Brendon Urie is moving from the concert stage to the Broadway stage later this week, stepping into one of the lead roles in “Kinky Boots” this Friday for a 10-week run. The singer-songwriter chatted with Variety ahead of his big debut as Charlie Price in the show.

Are you concerned at all about performing the standard Broadway schedule of eight shows a week?

I’ve definitely thought about it. I don’t know if it’s going to be more difficult or less difficult than touring. When we tour, at the most we do four shows in a row, and then a day off, but on tour I’m singing 98% of the show and it’s a 90-minute show. This one, I’m singing eight songs. And because I’m accustomed to touring, I’ve got my regimen. I’ve been talking to a couple different people about what they suggest, vocally, and they all seem to think I’m in my head too much. They’re like, “You’re fine. You’re good. You’ve been touring!”

You usually sing songs you’ve written yourself. What’s it like to perform someone else’s material?

With my songs with Panic!, I do get to play a persona sometimes, but other times I just get to let loose, and the fans are also singing. In this, on Broadway, no one else is singing! You’re naked up there. But I think it’s fun to play a character. When I remember a lyric coming up, I go: “Ah, that’s his motivation, sit in that pocket for a little bit. This verse is disparaging, this verse is uplifting, this chorus is rambunctious.” You’ve got to play that character, and not forgot that you’re not so-and-so from this band. When you’re on stage, you are that guy.

You worked with Lauren Pritchard, a.k.a. Lolo, on the Panic! single “Miss Jackson,” and she’s also opened for your band. Before all that, she was in the original Broadway cast of “Spring Awakening.” Did she have any advice for you?

I had been talking about doing musical theater for like four years now, seriously pursuing it. But before that even, I had talked to Lolo about it, and she was like, “I know that you would have a blast. It will be a challenge, but if you’re open to accepting that, the reward is going to be immense.”

How are those sparkly stiletto boots treating you?

I’ve worn heels in the past, but these are the most comfortable. They’re custom made. I didn’t know I was getting custom boots! I thought you’d just slip into the ones everybody’s worn. I was like, “Well, Charlie has to be awkward in them, so I shouldn’t be this comfortable in them.” I’m trying to stay awkward!

As someone who performs a lot in large music venues, what are your thoughts on what happened in Manchester?

It’s horrible. It’s tragic. But there’s nothing that makes me want to fight harder for love than something like that. I only want to push further in terms of teaching people, “You can let go of all the hate. You don’t have to live in that world. Come hang out with us. Learn acceptance. Learn love. This energy, trust me, will save you.”

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