Billy Porter was asleep when his Tony Award nomination for best actor in a musical was announced Tuesday morning, but he was awakened when his cell phone started buzzing with texts of congratulations.
The star of "Kinky Boots," which received 13 nominations including best musical, values the regenerative powers of sleep. He gets seven to nine hours a night and says it's the most important part of keeping his velvety voice fine-tuned to play Lola, the drag queen who collaborates with a shoe factory owner to create the title product. But there are exceptions to every rule, and he immediately got on the phone to his mother and sister.
That's about as far as the hoopla went -- there was a show to do that night, as there has been eight times a week since "Kinky Boots" opened in previews March 3. "Having a job to go to for a very long time, which in this business isn't always the case -- that's what I'm celebrating," the native of East Liberty said Thursday.
There is a lot to celebrate, though. For the week ending April 28, the show played to 98 percent capacity, up a percent from the previous week, according to Broadwayworld.com. And there are those 13 nominations, the most for any show this season.
"Theater in general is a family environment, so it's always comforting when the family gets recognized. And I'm over the moon about my co-star, Stark Sands, being recognized, because he's my rock. If he wasn't there, I wouldn't be as good as I am, so I'm thrilled for him."
The best actor category also includes Bertie Carvel for "Matilda, the Musical," the blockbuster British import that has 12 nominations. While Mr. Porter is a man who dresses in drag for much of "Kinky Boots," Mr. Carvel plays a woman -- the demonic headmistress Miss Trunchbull.
This is the fifth Broadway show for Mr. Porter, 43, who went from CAPA to Carnegie Mellon and into the New York production of "Miss Saigon" in 1991. Recognition has been a long time coming.
"My mother always says, 'God's delay is not denial,' and I am proof positive of that," he said. "Sometimes you just have to be patient and keep doing your work, and the world will catch up."
He is finally feeling the love and having a ball as Lola, which he calls "the role of a lifetime." When he called on Thursday, Mr. Porter was on the move after taping the "The Wendy Williams Show" for an episode scheduled for today (check local listings). He wouldn't speculate about what it will be like sitting in Radio City Hall on June 9 for the Tonys ceremony, but he knows what he will be wearing: Watch for a suit by French-Korean designer Wooyoungmi.
"I saw this suit about a month ago, so I willed this nomination into being," Mr. Porter said, laughing. There was a splurge, though, that came after the Tonys announcement, one that would likely earn Lola's stamp of approval.
"I bought shoes the day of the nomination, and those are Prada," he said.
Sharon Eberson: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1960. First Published May 3, 2013 4:00 AM