How Daryl Roth of 'Kinky Boots' Became The Biggest Force on Broadway

Jewish Producer Grew Up Feeling Like an Outsider

Good as Gold: Daryl Roth captured yet another Tony award for “Kinky Boots.”
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Good as Gold: Daryl Roth captured yet another Tony award for “Kinky Boots.”

By Simi Horwitz

Published October 04, 2013, issue of October 11, 2013.

Theater producer Daryl Roth says that she has not encountered sexism or ageism on the job, though she’s faced her share of painful challenges, especially early on in her career.

“When I started in ’88 -’89, I was new to theater,” Roth recalled as she sat in her exquisitely appointed West 57th Street corner office. “And because I was married to a very successful man [real estate mogul Steven Roth] who, by the way, is self-made, I was viewed as a dilettante by those who were entrenched. They looked at me — ‘Who is this person?’ And they assumed I’d be gone soon. It’s been 26 years, but I still feel a strange hurtfulness.”

Roth has produced seven Pulitzer Prize winners and more than 75 award-winning productions, including the Tony-winning “Clybourne Park,” “August: Osage County,” “Proof,” “The Normal Heart,” “War Horse” and most recently the musical hit, “Kinky Boots.”

Roth now has her sights set on John Grisham’s “A Time to Kill,” slated to open on Broadway at the John Golden Theatre on October 20. Adapted by Rupert Holmes, it is a courtroom drama set in a Mississippi town in the 1980s and tells the story of a black man who murders the two white rednecks who raped and beat his young daughter. Convinced the court system will not hold the thugs culpable, he takes the law into his own hands.

Roth says she was drawn to the project, not simply because she’s a John Grisham fan, but because the novel explores “the point at which race and justice intersect in our society,” she noted. “I don’t know if race and justice are played out fairly. I’m interested in the question, ‘When is it right for a person to defend his family when the law won’t?’ Is there a time for justice, a time to kill? It’s complicated. Nothing is black and white. Pardon the pun.”

Roth has an uncanny ability to find plays that can achieve critical acclaim while appealing to a broad audience. She admits it’s a balancing act, as she looks for works that mirror society and are steeped in reality. Family dynamics and the experiences of gay life are of special interest, not least because her son, producer Jordan Roth, president and majority owner of Jujamcyn Theaters, is gay.



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