Tiffany Engen gets her heels ready for ‘Kinky Boots’

Written by: Natalie Payan

Tiffany Engen has not only performed in Broadway plays like “Legally Blonde,” “Rock of Ages” and movies like “Hairspray” and Sugar & Spice,” but she’s also had roles in shows such as “Smash,” Nickelodeon’s “The Naked Brothers Band” and “The Daily Show,” among others.

Now, Engen will showcase her diverse acting abilities by playing Lauren in the upcoming play “Kinky Boots” at the Broward Center, beginning March 1. “Kinky Boots,” featuring Cyndi Lauper’s greatest hits, is centered on the heir of a shoe company who has no interest in his family’s company and relies on the assistance of a trans cabaret singer.

Here’s what Engen had to say about her role.

What made you want to be an actor?

“I had always grown up singing, dancing, acting and performing wherever I had the opportunity. I knew from a very early age that it’s something I definitely wanted to do. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else, and I felt like that was a good sign. It’s a perfect, creative outlet. I’ve been very lucky. I’ve done film work, Broadway, commercials, comedy. I like that feeling of being in a sandbox and just playing and creating. I just go where it takes me and just pursue the joy.”

What made you want to play Lauren in “Kinky Boots”?

“I had first seen a run-through of the show right before they headed out for their out-of-town try out. I had never seen a part like this that is so versatile, and funny, bold, sassy, sweet and endearing. I was just such a huge fan that, as soon as I saw it, I had to become a part of it at some point.”

How did you prepare for the role?

“I actually got to see the tour when it kicked off in Las Vegas a little over a year ago, which was amazing and exciting. I heard a little less than year later that they were possibly auditioning for the play. So I just started working on the material. I had so much fun working on the scenes. They’re so fun to play. I can’t remember the last time I had more fun working on audition material. I loved working on the material —even in the room when I was auditioning, no matter what the outcome, I was just happy to be working on the material.”

Do you share anything in common with your character, Lauren?

“I feel like there’s a little bit of Lauren in everyone. Especially that she’s starting to have feelings for Charlie and trying to talk herself out of it because she’s falling for the wrong kind of guy. So I identify with the awkwardness when you realize you like someone. But she’s also so sassy and bold, and I admire that, and I wish I had more of that in my life. She’s very smart and very intuitive, and just because she’s not the boss doesn’t mean she doesn’t have the best idea in the room.”

Are you facing any challenges playing this role? If so, how did you overcome them?

“In the finale, everyone is wearing kinky boots, so different heels and on different platforms. I feel like it takes getting used to dancing and acting in those heels. My feet have to get used to them.”

Why do you think people should see “Kinky Boots”?

“I think it has a little something for everybody. I think that [that] they won Tony Awards, including best musical, is a huge draw. The score also draws people to buy tickets, and the script and choreography is just top-notch. It’s a story that has a lot of themes and messages. It has a story about a father and son, which is a really great relationship that we explore throughout the show. And it also is a story about tolerance and acceptance and patience. One of the last sentences in the play — Don says, ‘You change the world when you change your mind.’ And we’re seeing that. And we really are opening up people’s minds about tolerance, patience and acceptance and the joy that that brings.”

What will people take from the play?

“I think, immediately, the first thing that they’ll think is that that was pure joy on stage. The play was so much fun and entertaining. You see people stand up on their feet before we even start the finale, and that’s just the best feeling in the world. I feel people are getting that message of patience and acceptance. And it’s not preachy. You’re not hitting people over the head with any major message because you’re enjoying watching these characters navigate these relationships and who they thought they were. I think everyone leaves the theater with their minds and hearts a little more open.”

Is it difficult being in a musical rather than in a normal play?

“I think the acoustics in each theater are a little different. The climates sometimes are a little harder to project in. Luckily, here in Florida, it’s great to sing in this type of weather. The great thing about tour life, is that there’s a new audience every night and a new city every week. There’s people who come from all over to see the play, and it feels very special to us that people are making these trips to come and see the show and this wonderful message.

What do you recommend to someone who aspires to be an actor?

“I would say study as much as you can and take as many acting classes as you can. I studied improv, and I’ve done sketch writing programs. See as many plays, musicals and movies as you can, and just pursue the joy and journey of the work. Enjoy the process of auditioning. You’ll be auditioning more than you’re working. As long as you can find the creativity and the happiness of the day to day of this business, I think that will keep you happy longer. And people want to work with happy people.”

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