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Kinky Boots

Four Stars

Photo by Matthew Murphy
Stark Sands (Charlie Price) and Billy Porter (Lola)
Stark Sands (Charlie Price)
and Billy Porter (Lola)
More production photos

Review by Tulis McCall
5 April 2013

I love tissue paper, so much color that takes up so much eye real estate and yet weighs nothing. With just a little touch of tissue one can masque a myriad of deficiencies. So, naturally, I liked this show. What I l-o-v-e-d, however, was this exuberant cast. These people are marinating in joy, and each performance is devoted to lifting you waaaaay up.

In addition, you will not be bored, because you are not allowed to indulge in anything so frivolous as boredom. The story line here is It’s A Wonderful Life meets La Cage Aux Folles. Charlie Price (Stark Sands) and his gal Nicola (Celina Carajal) are getting out of Northampton, England and heading for civilization in London. They no sooner arrive when the word comes that the senior Mr. Price has passed on, and Charlie is called home to deal with the shoe factory his father left behind. He goes home to fix a problem and instead finds a life.

As we enter the story, Price Shoes has been a steady maker of sturdy shoes for decades, but time has marched on and Price Shoes has not. Faced with the prospect of closing the factory and laying off a work force, most of whom he has known all his life, Charlie does the only thing he can: he heads back to London and the comfort of an old friend whom he hopes will take Charlie’s surplus shoes away. On his way home Charlie stops to rescue a damsel in distress - a cross dresser who packs a mean wallop at the expense of her high heeled boots. The swing lands on Charlie by mistake and he is taken in by his soon to be best friend – Lola (Billy Porter).

In a plot point that is beyond far-fetched, Charlie discovers the dearth of women’s high-heeled boots that are strong enough to hold up a man. It takes awhile, but Charlie finally sees the possibilities of this niche market.

Northampton – meet Another World.

With Lola’s entrance into the story the temperature of the entire theatre rises. Not only is this one hot human being, but s/he carries a passel of challenges. How will this fully formed human get on with the factory workers? And how will thinking outside the box affect everyone in a 50-mile radius. There is prejudice to overcome, shoes to be made and lives to change.

And somehow it all shakes out – including The History of Wrong Guys - delivered by a delicious Annaleigh Ashford who bears a remarkable resemblance to Cyndi Lauper while carving out her own path. Lola and the extraordinary Angels (Paul Canaan, Kevin Smith Kirkwood, Kyle Taylor Parker, Kyle Post, Charlie Sutton and Joey Taranto) pack more power and glitter per square inch than a mirror ball on high-speed while they sing and strut and summersault the message of lip smackin’ joy. Slowly the factory workers are brought around. Even Charlie has his own rock number of self discovery.

What is lacking is mostly in the text. The peaks that should be here turn out to be little mounds. In some ways this is a concert with spoken words between the songs. Still, there is nothing wrong with feeling good, and this show does that shamelessly. This cast, led by Porter, sweeps you up in their arms and refuses to let you go until you are smothered in a good time.

Audiences who spend a lot of time wondering just how those men can look so much like women eventually surrender and stand to cheer at the show’s conclusion.

Not a bad night’s work.

(Tulis McCall)

What the popular press said...

"It’s a shameless emotional button pusher."
Ben Brantley for New York Times

"Even with some stumbles, 'Kinky Boots' is a high time."
Joe Dziemianowicz for New York Daily News

"Likable but heavy-handed show."
Elisabeth Vincentelli for New York Post

"The Feel-Good Musical of the Season."
Erik Haagensen for Back Stage

"[For] a show that seems to make few false steps is so relentlessly tedious."
Robert Feldberg for The Record

"Blissfully entertaining."
Roma Torre for NY1

"Fair-to-middling musical entertainment.
Michael Sommers for Newsroom Jersey

"A raucous crowdpleaser despite its obviousness."
David Rooney for The Hollywood Reporter

"Never underestimate the power of a good-bad musical."
Marilyn Stasion for Variety

External links to full reviews from popular press...

New York Times - New York Daily News - New York Post - Back Stage - The Record - NY1 - Newsroom Jersey - Hollywood Reporter - Variety

Production Details
Venue: Al Hirschfeld Theatre
Genre: Musical Comedy
Previewed: 03 Mar 2013
Opened: 04 Apr 2013
Score: Cyndi Lauper
Lyrics: Cyndi Lauper
Book: Harvey Fierstein
Director: Jerry Mitchell
Choreographer: Jerry Mitchell

Synopsis: Charlie Price is forced to step in and save his family’s shoe factory in Northern England following the sudden death of his father. Help comes from the unlikeliest angel, a fabulous drag performer named Lola. Together, this improbable duo revitalizes the failing business, while stepping out from their fathers' shadows and transforming an entire community through the power of acceptance.

Opening Cast: Stark Sands (Charlie Price), Billy Porter (Lola), Annaleigh Ashford (Lauren), Celina Carvajal (Nicola), Daniel Stewart Sherman (Don), Marcus Neville (George), Paul Canaan, Kevin Smith Kirkwood, Kyle Taylor Parker, Kyle Post, Charlie Sutton, Joey Taranto, Andy Kelso, Tory Ross, Jen Perry, Josh Caggiano, Aaron Bantum, Adinah Alexander, Eric Anderson, Eugene Barry-Hil, Stephen Berge, Caroline Bowman, Sandra DeNise, Eric Leviton, Ellyn Marie Marsh, John Jeffrey Martin, Nathan Peck, Robert Pendilla, Lucia Spina, Sebastian Hedges Thomas, Marquise Neal and Clifton Oliver
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