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KINKY BOOTS REVIEW - Feeling, Living and Loving the Joy

By Babbie De Derian, Travel Editor

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On the way to the Al Hirschfeld Theatre for the 7PM performance of Kinky Boots, an early dinner at Barbetta, on Restaurant Row, brought back memories of fashion shows in the restaurant’s garden when models danced to Cyndi Lauper's hit: "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun". Opened in 1906, it is the oldest restaurant in New York City still owned by the foundling family. It has been years since I last saw Laura Maioglio, the daughter who has been running it for 53 years, or listened to Cyndi Lauper’s music. Tonight is my dance back in time.

  

The original cast of Kinky Boots (c)Matthew Murphy

Kinky Boots, the Tony Award Winning Show inspired by the movie of the same name is a fun sweet musical set in Northampton, England, and tells the story of the Price family’s outdated shoe factory hit by hard times; jobs are in jeopardy and spirits need lifting.  It is also the touching story of a black drag queen that doesn't live up to his boxer father’s expectations.

Billy Porter and The Angels (L-R: Kyle Post, Kevin Smith Kirkwood, Joey Taranto, and Paul Canaan) (c)Matthew Murphy

Bringing the show into today, Harvey Fierstein’s book, Cyndi Lauper’s music & lyrics and Jerry Mitchell’s direction and choreography have taken issues rarely addressed in those days (no less in a small provincial town) and turned them into a beautiful, fabulous, fast paced, poignant from-the-heart show. David Rockwell has designed a charming set and Gregg Barnes’s costume designs, give the show red hot sizzling scene stealers.

 

When the curtain opens, I am disappointed understudy Timothy Ware is replacing Tony Winner Billy Parker in thestarring role of Lola AKA Simon for tonight’s performance. However, as the story unfolds, Timothy’ s craftsmanship, the sweetness and vulnerability he brings to the role of Simon … and his tough yet sultry confidence as Lola, wins me over.

Andy Kelso, Billy Porter, and Jeanna de Waal (center) (c)Matthew Murphy

 

Andy Kelso plays son Charlie, a rather bland but sincere and loyal character. The show gets off to a lively start with two inspiring numbers:  “The Most Beautiful Thing in the World” and “Take what you’ve got”, sung by Harry, Charlie and ensemble. The audience, filled with tourists from around the world, responds with laughter and heartfelt applause.

  

Billy Porter, Jeanna de Waal, Andy Kelso, Marcus Neville, and Natalie Joy Johnson (c)Matthew Murphy

Charlie, not wanting to run the factory, moves to London with his fiancé to live a more social life. Fate intervenes when his father dies, and he moves back to honor his father.  Left with an inventory of well crafted men’s shoes that no one wants to buy, and the threat of having to close the factory, he heads back to London  to make a deal to unload them, at any price.

 

He meets Lola, a black drag queen, performing in a club. Lola gives Charlie and the audience a lesson in aesthetics when she and her “angels” belt out "Sex is in the heel", convincing him he can fill a missing niche by making high heel boots for drag stars. 

 

Charlie invites Lola to visit the factory; and is surprised when Simon arrives conservatively dressed in a suit.   Charlie from Northampton and Simon from Clapton bond in an, emotional and touching duet “Not my father’s son”. Charlie offers Lola a job as designer of the Price factory’s new Kinky Boots Collection, and production begins with a bumpy and grumpy start.

Billy Porter and Andy Kelso

Act 1 ends on a stiletto high note as the first red hot pair of Kinky Boots rolls off the assembly line. Jerry Mitchell's use of the fast moving conveyor belt to choreograph Cyndi Lauper’s “Everybody Say Yeah” is a brilliant celebration of re-invention, and the turning point in the lives of Charlie, Simon, Lola, her angels and the entire town.

 

In Act 2, Don the narrow minded beefy factory worker challenges Lola to a boxing match …little does Don know Simon is a boxing champ. Lola, Pat, Don and ensemble come together singing   "In this Corner”. Lola delivers a few well directed punches; Don realizes he has met his match, but Lola purposely lets him win.  When, Don asks why; Lola tells him, she didn't want him to come to work the next day as a loser to a drag queen. This pivotal moment in the show, when Don begins to accept and respect Lola for whom she is, turns prejudice into understanding.

 

Jeanna do Waal and Andy Kelso

Under Lola’s direction, and the ingenuity of the factory workers, they find a way to build and reinforce a boot with a stiletto heel that will support the weight of a drag queen.

 

The fabulous Fashion Show Finale that launches the Kinky Boots Collection rocks the house … the Price factory is saved … and the town emerges.  

 

Kinky Boots is great big confetti colored quirky, sentimental and eccentric show full of glitter, bling and a bevy of drag queens. It brings together the award winning talents, compassion and uniqueness of writers, actors, directors and dancers who have crossed the lines of intolerance into a world where human kindness prevails. The leading players, under Mr. Mitchell's direction, sing and move in sync with the characters they play. This is a well tuned show where the cast knows, and does, their job. The book and the production are all about re-invention, living your passions, being yourself and accepting others for who they are. The show succeeds in overcoming prejudice and transcending stereotypes. .Michael Fierstein tells the story well; Cyndi Lauper’s lyrics say it all in   “Raise You Up/Just Be”.

 

Timothy Ware makes his Broadway debut in this show .Tonight he gave a memorable performance that left the audience cheering, proving he shines in and out of drag.

 

Stark Sands, Billy Porter, The Angels (L-R: Kyle Taylor Parker, Charlie Sutton, Joey Taranto, Kevin Smith Kirkwood, Paul Canaan, and Kyle Post), and cast (c)Matthew Murphy

Regardless of your age or gender, "If you “ just wanna have fun" dance your way over to the Al Hirschfeld Theatre at 302 West 45th Street  for an evening of  magical moments that  will range from high energy wackiness to tender soul searching reflection.

 

Kinky Boots is full of surprises, and the only one missing (that I found myself yearning for) was Cyndi Lauper and Harvey Fierstein cavorting across the stage in a curtain call. The message was loud and clear:  If the shoe or boot fits, why not own it.  

 

Before this review went live, producers Daryl Roth and Hal Luftig announced  that Emmy Award-winner and Grammy Award nominee Wayne Brady will take over the coveted role of ‘Lola’  on November 21, 2015.

 

For tickets

 

Photos:Courtesy of Kinky Boots

 

 

 

 

 

 

Published on Aug 18, 2015

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