THEATER REVIEW

 

– PHOTO: “Kinky Boots” National Tour. Photo by Matthew Murphy © –

 

By Cate Marquis, Arts and Entertainment Editor for The Current –

The award-winning Broadway musical comedy “Kinky Boots” kicks up its bright red heels at the Fox Theater, March 24 – April 5. The 2013 winner of the Tony for Best Musical features music by Cyndi Lauper and a book by Harvey Fierstein. The Broadway touring production is probably the highlight of the Fox’s Broadway Series this season.

Before the story was adapted as a Broadway musical, “Kinky Boots” was a 2005 British comedy film, a surprise international hit that starred Chiwetel Edijofor (later the star of the Oscar-winning “12 Years A Slave”) and Joel Edgerton. “Kinky Boots” is based on a true story, about a struggling family-owned English shoe manufacturer that finds a way to survive globalization by finding an under-served niche market – sexy women’s shoes and boots made for men’s feet.

In the colorful, energetic, playful musical version at the Fox, Steven Booth plays Charlie Price, the third generation of Price and Son, manufacturer of traditional hand-sewn leather men’s shoes. The family family factory is located in a small northern English town, where it is the major employer. The story is set in the early 1990s, an era in which many small family-owned manufacturing businesses were going out of business in the face of the onslaught of the cheaper imports, flooding markets under globalization economic policy. Adapt or die is clearly what traditional English factories like Price and Son must do.

Charlie is living in London with his girlfriend Nicola (Grace Stockdale), with no intention of following his father into the shoe business, when circumstances force him back home. A chance meeting brings Charlie face-to-face with a tall, flamboyant drag queen performer named Lola (Darius Harper). Noting that the heel on Lola’s boot is broken, Charlie offers to fix it, leading to a game-changing conversation in which Lola laments the difficulty of finding quality women’s shoes for men.

The musical generally follows the outlines of the non-musical movie but the comedy is a bit broader and the musical is more front-and-center with a message about tolerance than the film was. The production also follows the general outline of most musicals, with production numbers to help create character and outline turning points. Given that the score is by pop star Cyndi Lauper, the music overall is more conventional and less memorable than one might expect.

The staging and performances were terrific, even if most of the songs were not that memorable. Still, there were a few musical highlights too, and the best song comes in the first act. “The History of Wrong Guys,” a wonderfully catchy comic gem about falling for the wrong guy, sung in winning fashion by Lindsay Nicole Chambers as Lauren, a factory worker who is becoming infatuated with her boss Charlie. Other highlights included the showstopper at the end of the first act, “Everybody Say Yeah,” where Lola takes center stage to celebrate high-heeled boots. One of the best production numbers featured several of the performers running, dancing and doing flips on the moving assembly line. Lola’s fellow drag queen performers, “the angels,” entertained with some impressive high-kicking high-heeled dancing and colorful costumes.

The second act featured a trip to an industry fashion show in Milan, to launch the “kinky boots” on the international market. The catwalk gives the production a chance to show-off with some sparkly, sequin-encrusted costumes, and more fancy dancing by the Angels, as the story comes to its conclusion.

“Kinky Boots” offers a fun, entertaining evening and a message of tolerance – with a side of sequins,

© The Current 2015