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Jerry Mitchell takes the shoe factory tour

In this phoprovided by Miramax  Lol (Chiwetel Ejiofor) helps shoemaker discover new fashi 'Kinky Boots.' |  AP Photo-Miramax/Laurie

In this photo provided by Miramax, Lola (Chiwetel Ejiofor) helps a shoemaker discover a new fashion in "Kinky Boots." | AP Photo-Miramax/Laurie Sparham

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Updated: October 11, 2012 6:38PM

The film version of “Kinky Boots” was based on a true story. And as background for staging its musical incarnation, director-choreographer Jerry Mitchell very much wanted to go to the source. So he headed to Earls Barton, the historic village in Northampton, England, that was the inspiration for the tale.

“There are still four or five shoemaking factories functioning there,” said Mitchell. “Part of the film was shot in the town, and they used some of the locals in the cast. Being there you begin to understand the whole process. The cows are in the fields right nearby. You see how the leather is stretched and cut and the craftsmanship involved in the whole process. There is even a little shoe museum in the town. I spend my life in tennis shoes, but I gained a whole new appreciation for what it takes to make the brogue.”

Mitchell took photos and videos that he distributed to the cast. And he set about trying to figure out how to suggest the factory scene without a lot of dialogue. A conveyor belt will figure into the mix — it conjures up the factory’s distant roots in the Industrial Revolution — but Mitchell wanted to keep the details “a surprise.”

Stark Sands, the actor who plays Charlie Price, the young man struggling to keep the family business alive, also visited the Tricker’s Factory.

“I watched the whole process,” he said. “I saw the drawing out of the leather and the cutting machine. I talked to some of the people who worked there and recorded them to study the accent, which is not standard British. I’m a real stickler for dialects, though I also am very conscious of being understood by an American audience.”

And what about on-site visits for the rest of the team?

Cyndi Lauper said she was familiar with the turf from doing concerts in England’s north country. And Harvey Fierstein quipped: “I didn’t have the same need as Jerry did to feel the cows.”

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