TO CALL IT THE STUFF OF SHOWBIZ LEGEND would be a tad melodramatic, but hey, we’re talking about 23-year-old Houston-born singer, dancer, and actress Madison Pugh. After hearing about the gig on a family trip to Disney World, the recent University of Oklahoma grad was invited to join the touring cast of mega-musical Kinky Boots, which comes to Jones Hall Jan. 19–21 courtesy of the Society for the Performing Arts.

“It’s really about people continuing to learn from each other,” Pugh says of the show’s underlying themes. “It doesn’t demonize anybody, and I feel that’s what makes the show so successful.”

Winner of no less than six Tony Awards (including Best Musical), Kinky Boots is the creative baby of singer Cyndi Lauper and playwright Harvey Fierstein, whose epic three-act Torch Song Trilogy was a revelation for both gay and straight audiences when it premiered in 1982. Kinky Boots debuted in 2012 and follows on the footsteps of the 2005 film by the same name. The musical tells the story of Charlie Price (played by Lance Bordelon), the hetero owner of a failing men’s shoe factory in England who joins forces with drag queen performer Lola (played by Jos N. Banks) to produce a line of thigh-high women’s boots for men. (Think about it: Dudes are generally bigger-footed than women, right?)

Pugh performs in the show’s ensemble as Marge, a working class (s)hero who, like her mom and grandfather before her, works in Price’s factory. “She’s pretty close-minded in the beginning,” Pugh says of her character. “She’s never been exposed to drag queens and all of these other new, big ideas.” Marge’s story also mirrors Pugh’s own coming of age.

Madison pugh headshot uczk3l

Madison Pugh

“Being a high school theater nerd really opens your world,” she says. “It’s a perfect storm of LGBTQ presence, outspoken people, and lots of time after school to discuss your thoughts. Marge accepts this new world as she comes into contact with it, and that’s how I felt as a teenager as well. Being exposed to and involved with the LGBTQ community helped me grow tremendously as a person.”

Blessed with a rich, expressive singing voice and ability to shift between a classic and more rock-fueled Broadway sound (not to mention skills that include tap dancing, acting andknitting), Pugh has all the chops a performer needs for a demanding, high energy show like Kinky Boots. Between Lauper’s epic Broadway numbers and onstage action that includes a boxing match between Lola and factory foreman Ron, the demands on each individual cast member are formidable.

“That’s really what we’re dealing with,” says Pugh when asked about the energy required to perform multiple dates in different towns with different climates. “In the big finale of Act One, the set becomes very involved with the number. People are jumping and flipping off of stuff, throwing boots around. It’s really fun andphysically challenging. You really have to get that energy up in order to bring a great story to the audience.”

While she and the cast have encountered audience members who decry the show’s story and message, and certain areas of the country can be less hospitable to a group of male actors in drag trying to enjoy a post-show meal, Pugh continues to witness the transformative power of the show and her chosen vocation.

“There are always amazing people in every city who tell us how moved they were or how the story affected them personally while they were in the theater with us,” says Pugh. “It’s always gratifying to see such open-mindedness and love.”

Jan 19-21. Tickets from $20. Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana St. 713-227-4772. More info and tickets at spahouston.org.