Murphy Made Photography

Murphy Made Photography

Murphy Made Photography


Winter 2017

|  by Emell Derra Adolphus

Kicks and Kink

Oakland University alumnus Sam Rohloff high kicks his way to superstardom in ‘Kinky Boots’


As a sassy, stiletto-clad drag queen in the touring “Kinky Boots” production, Sam Rohloff, BFA 13, has learned to cope with the pain of dancing in sky-high heels with poise. “I just feel like the heels are a pain you get used to,” he says, with grace, about the grueling demands of a national tour. Rohloff has shown equal grace as an actor, able to seamlessly portray a leading man or a leggy lady, which he credits to his tutelage as a musical theatre major at Oakland University. “Oakland University literally paved my way to being versatile in many aspects,” he says. “I think that’s the point of going to school, training and curating your talent to make it the most successful.”  

Rohloff’s run with “Kinky Boots” (find a show in your city) may have come to an end, but he’s already made a name for himself as an actor who can do it all. In a spare moment, we talked with Rohloff about the quirks of playing a drag queen, stage names and the special moment when he knew he was born to be a performer.

So how exactly do you break in those kinky boots? Do you run the stairs in them?  

No, no! (Rohloff laughs). I think just wearing them. The boots (worn in the finale), no matter what, are always custom made to the actor. They measure every inch of your leg. So you have to break (them) in mainly so you have mobility of your leg.

That sounds like a complicated pair of boots.

It is. A lot goes into those kinky boots.

You’ve had roles in ‘West Side Story,’ ‘Spring Awakening,’ ‘Fiddler on the Roof,’ and many more productions. Was developing versatility a major focal point of your theatre curriculum?

I think at school you learn all different types of styles of dance, music and singing. I did “West Side Story.” My next gig out of that was “La Cage Aux Folles,” which was just a regional gig that I did in Florida. But I was able to get that job because of my past performing and my training from Oakland. But also I think the reason I got “Kinky Boots” is because of “La Cage Aux Folles.”

“La Cage Aux Folles” was such an education in drag performance for me because it was something that I’d never done. I really liked it, and I realized I was really good at it. So I took the next step.

And here you are! What was the turning point in your education when you knew you were meant to be an actor?

I have tons. But I do think that “Spring Awakening” was kind of one of my favorites as it was the kind of climax of my college career. It was senior year. I was playing the lead role. It was a show that I’ve always wanted to be a part of. But I finally realized that this is the show I want to do, and this is exactly where I want to be.

Can you ever really be prepared for the demands of touring?

I think the only way you really know about tour is by doing it. It’s like a hot mix of people and the show ... It’s a whole chemistry thing. At the same time it’s one of the most exciting things.

Have you had the opportunity to work directly with Harvey Fierstein and Cyndi Lauper?

I’ve actually only met Harvey. He came six months ago, we were in Connecticut, and saw the new show because it was a completely different cast from when he first put up the tour. But I actually never got to perform or meet Cyndi yet. But I do know she and Harvey both (are hands on) in the early rehearsals.  

I know that you play one of the Angels in the show, but does your character have a name?

The thing is, we create our own names. My name is “Samantha Mars.” In the scripts and on our resume, we would put “Angel” because that’s what’s in the playbill. But of course you want a name. So I just went with Samantha Mars. My whole aesthetic is like space odyssey when I think about Samantha Mars, even though in “Kinky Boots” we are playing different types of drag queens.

There is a good line in the show: ‘Accept yourself and you’ll accept others, too.’ As an actor, how did you learn to accept yourself?

It’s interesting. Depending on where you grew up, your ideals, your views and, yes, where you went to college, it’s different for each person. I really opened up in college. I went to college knowing that I am accepted for who I am. I think I did learn to accept myself and then in turn accept others.

Then when I got out of school there were other things I needed to accept. I needed to accept people for who they were, not trying to change everyone. And I think that is also one of the messages in “Kinky Boots.” I think that message can mean so many different things but, also, is so effective.

What’s next for you after ‘Kinky Boots’?

There’s really no plan, which is ultimately very exciting for me.

Any plans to come back to OU for a special one-man show?

Oh, that would be really fun! Maybe I will come on down to do a show. I definitely owe it to Oakland. I owe it to Fred Love and the faculty there. But who knows, maybe down the line I will come by.