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.”
Getty Images
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.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 3 of 3)

Roth, who has received the National Foundation for Jewish Culture’s Patron of the Arts Award and the Jewish Theological Seminary’s Louis B. Marshall Award, does not view herself as especially politically-minded.

Her concerns are moral. She is a vegetarian and animal activist. She serves on the board of the Animal Rescue Fund, and produced a documentary, “My Dog: An Unconditional Love Story.” She also produced the Oscar-nominated “Albert Nobbs,” and says she is hoping to produce movie versions of “The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife” and “The Temperamentals,” a play centering on the Mattachine Society, a gay rights organization of the early ’50s.

Roth has a reputation for tenacity and fierce loyalty. “Daryl has played an enormous role in my life and career over the past 13 years,” said playwright and actor Charles Busch. “She has taken me under her wing as she has a number of other very fortunate people, and provided us with so many opportunities to work and learn, and she doesn’t give up on us if we fail numerous times.”

Still, there was nothing in her life that prepared her for the kind of mega-success she has enjoyed. Following her graduation from New York University, she was drawn to the arts — first design and then theater — but didn’t quite know what role she could play. In the interim, she married, had two children and joined various theater companies,.

“My catalyst was working with lyricist Richard Maltby Jr. at City Center,” she said. “He invited me to hear songs that he and composer David Shire had written. I loved the songs — each one was a little story about personal changes — but I still don’t know where I had the confidence to take the show to Williamstown and then to the Cherry Lane where it ran nine months. The show was ‘Closer than Ever’ and the songs are among the most frequently used audition pieces.”

From the outset, Roth has produced projects that spoke to her sensibility, whether or not they seemed likely to find a wide audience. Indeed, her early productions were housed off-Broadway. “At least I felt fulfilled,” she said.

To date, the show she is most proud of is “Kinky Boots,” in large part because of her intense involvement right from the get-go. At Sundance, where Roth viewed the film upon which the musical came to be based, she had a startling epiphany.

“I realized this is the story I wanted to tell on stage as a musical,” she noted. “It had the elements I cared about: relationships, acceptance and the courage to be who you are.”

Asked what she wants her legacy to be, Roth said that she would like to be remembered as someone who “did wonderful plays that changed peoples’ minds.”

Simi Horwitz writes frequently about the arts for the Forward.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.