'Kinky Boots' Star Tyler Glenn on His Broadway Debut: 'There is No Hiding On the Stage'

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On a sunny Thursday afternoon in New York City, Tyler Glenn strolls up to a quaint, artisanal cfee shop on West 44th Street to jump-start his evening. The singer, best known as the leading man the hit-making pop-rock outfit Neon Trees, needs fuel to ensure that he can get through one his week’s eight performances on a Broadway stage.

Glenn is currently starring in the smash-hit Broadway musical Kinky Boots as a part the show’s new tradition bringing in well-known talent from the music industry to walk a mile in their six-inch heels. Joining the likes Panic! At the Disco’s Brendon Urie, Scissor Sisters’ Jake Shears and American Idol season 7 winner David Cook, Glenn has been faced with the difficult task trading in his rock star lifestyle for that a Broadway performer.

But today, he’s not that worried. Despite the fact that he’s finally bouncing back from an illness that kept him out a performance the week prior, Glenn is excited for that night’s performance since his father will be in attendance. “He’s bringing a co-worker tonight, too, so that’s kind cool,” he says.

Glenn has a history with his family and Kinky Boots. When the “Everybody Talks” singer came out to his parents four years ago, he and his mother ended up seeing the show together while they were in New York. “She loved it before I was even involved,” he says. “My parents have seen it four times, and my mom sees it every opportunity she can. It's been a journey, and my parents have come on for the ride."

The opportunity came when Glenn was approached to do the show November 2017. He signed on and endured three weeks grueling rehearsals in April, which he described as “Broadway bootcamp,” in order to properly prepare for the role.

Now, the star has been performing in the show for nearly two months, and says that after finally getting in-sync with the Broadway lifestyle, he can feel his final show in mid-July rapidly approaching. “I'm sad that it's going to be over, and I already see that there's a light at the end -- and I don't want to see it.”

Glenn says that cfee is typical on a day like this, where he only has one performance to do. He’ll typically sleep in and try to keep his mornings and afternoons very calm so he can have enough energy to put out a great performance that night, along with calling friends outside the Broadway community to keep himself grounded.

“Self-care is key,” he remarks. “Talking to people that are maybe outside this world just to remind yourself that you have a pulse somewhere else is super important.”

After finishing his cfee and posing for a photo with a fan sitting nearby (“No, please, I’d love to!” he says as she timidly asks for a picture), Glenn heads for the Al Hirschfeld Theater one block away to start getting ready for that night's show. He enters through a side door, says hello to the crew members busying themselves around the wings the stage and enters his dressing room.

“I probably spend as much time here as I do in my apartment,” Glenn says as he sits down at his vanity to start applying makeup to cover up the ink on his arm. His character, Charlie Price, is a straight-laced conservative British man who likely wouldn’t have a David Bowie tattoo on his bicep.

One the challenges that Glenn faces with the role is that Charlie serves as the story’s straight man, both literally and figuratively. While he says that he identifies more with the queer, flamboyant presence the show’s drag queen protagonist Lola, the singer has plenty entry points for his performance as Charlie.

“I pretended to be straight for longer than I should have,” he says, smirking. “Growing up in parts Utah and California that are way more conservative, a lot my friend base is very straight, so I've been able to teach them a lot things like Lola teaches Charlie. So I think in that way, I've been able to apply that.”

His dressing room is adorned with various decorative elements like Christmas lights and house plants, most which he says were left behind by previous cast members. “I told myself that I was going to do more with the decorating, but then the show started and I just didn’t have time,” he laughs.

One the most fascinating parts his dressing room is the closet-sized bathroom, the walls which are littered with thousands black and red marks -- a show tally kept by every performer who hit the stage as Charlie. Tyler points to a dotted line from the week prior, indicating that he was out sick that day. “That was a rough night,” he recalls.

While Glenn applies his makeup, Bon Iver’s “Re: Stacks” wafts through a speaker in his dressing room. It’s part a running playlist “highs and lows” he has endearingly titled “Kinky” to help him get ready for the show. It includes Troye Sivan’s most recent dance hits and the smooth and sultry sounds Amy Winehouse. “I love singing her before the show because she's got such a strong, husky voice,” he remarks.

This is a typical day for Glenn, but he claims that he actually prefers the hyperactive “two-show days” Wednesdays and Saturdays where he wakes up early and heads straight to the theater in order to prepare himself for the matinee. “Even though that sounds crazy, I don't have to shut f, and I can just stay in it,” he says. “I'm one that kind likes to absorb what I'm doing and stay in it. In that way, it's kind nice.”

Sitting in one the corners his dressing room are numerous types Throat Coat tea, his go-to method for keeping his voice healthy. While Glenn is used to singing loud and proud for a screaming audience, he says that a Broadway performance requires more dexterity and stamina.

“In Neon Trees, I can be sick and still do a show,” he says. “But this is a different element. I mean, there is no hiding on the stage behind the little mic on your face. You're pretty bare on stage, and the whole point what you're doing is your voice.”

By 6:30 p.m., Tyler is mentally and physically prepared, showing up in costume for his half-hour call time before the show begins at 7. Despite the numerous struggles he’s faced with playing the role, Glenn says that being a part Kinky Boots has been one the most rewarding experiences his lifetime, specifically thanks to the show’s message love and acceptance for the LGBTQ community.

“It's live theater, it's an art form, and it's so appreciated in the mainstream,” he says. “When you're sitting there and watching something like this that is so plainly put out and put to music and based in joy, you just can’t deny it.”