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Why everyone should see 'Kinky Boots' off Broadway

Everyone can find themselves in this feel-good musical.

Gillian Russo
Gillian Russo

Everybody say yeah, because the boots are back! After a celebrated six-year Broadway run, the Tony-winning Best Musical Kinky Boots is strutting its heels off Broadway at Stage 42. With its creative dream team intact — four-time Tony-winning bookwriter Harvey Fierstein, multi-award-winning composer/lyricist Cyndi Lauper, and feel-good musical king Jerry Mitchell as director/choreographer — Kinky Boots hasn't lost any of its glittery grandeur in the move to a more intimate venue. 

And in the three-plus years since Kinky Boots closed on Broadway, the show has become timelier than ever. The musical centers on Charlie, the heir to the failing Price & Son shoe factory, whose saving grace comes from a drag queen named Lola. She and her backup dancers, the Angels, need stiletto boots that can support their weight, and Charlie is the man for the job. Charlie and Lola's partnership teaches the factory workers — and themselves — the importance of respecting others and living as one's true self, even if it goes against others' expectations.

That message is a call to action amid anti-LGBTQ+ legislation and public sentiment, but every person can relate to wanting to be themselves. The universality of Kinky Boots's message makes it a perfect a show not only for dedicated musical fans, but also for theatre newcomers and children.

"Kinky Boots is not only a great night out and a fun night out, but it's also really heartfelt and sincere," said Broadway star Robin De Jesús, of tick, tick... BOOM! film and The Boys in the Band, at the show's opening. "It's a show that, oftentimes, makes people think it's about a very specific community, and then you go see it when you're not from that 'specific community' and you realize there's a universality to it. We all have something to take from it."

Learn more about what the Kinky Boots cast, creative team, and more celebrity fans had to say about how everyone will enjoy Kinky Boots. No matter your background, the warm and exuberant Kinky Boots is the perfect fit for you, like a custom-made shoe.

Get Kinky Boots tickets now.

Kinky Boots is about fathers and sons.

Charlie and Lola become business partners thanks to their shared interest in shoes, but they become genuine friends over their relationships with their fathers. Neither is what their father wants them to be: Charlie at first, insists he doesn't want to own his family's shoe factory, and Lola, whose given name is Simon, wants to prove to her father that doing drag doesn't make her any less of a "proper" man.

Charlie and Lola sing a duet, "Not My Father's Son," about accepting that they're not like their fathers, while hoping their true selves will still make their dads proud. Charlie gets a similar solo later on, "Soul of a Man," and any parents and children watching Kinky Boots can bond over these moments.

"Not only does ["Not My Father's Son"] mean something to me because I'm a father and a son, but over the years, I have gotten to watch audience members — grown men with their sons, or the guy who looks like he didn't want to come here," said producer Hal Luftig. "I watch him during that show, and it hits him. It's when I know we got him... I tear up every time I watch that happen."

Stark Sands, who has become a father himself since originating the role of Charlie on Broadway, can attest to that. "When I sang the song 'Soul of a Man,' it brought me to an emotional place on stage regularly," he said. "When I hear that song on the cast album... I still feel the same tears approaching."

On the flip side, those without strong bonds with their fathers will still see themselves in Charlie and Lola's journey. De Jesús said about a friend of his: "He's such a dude, such a bro, and this is his favorite show," he said. "I was really curious [about] why. He said: Daddy issues.'"

Children can come to see Kinky Boots.

There is a song about how "The Sex is in the Heel" of the title boots, but otherwise, there is no adult content that's inappropriate for children. It's never too early to teach kids about accepting others for who they are, and Kinky Boots offers that lesson in a sparkly, intro-level, family-friendly package.

"With all the bills and all the laws that are coming out right now about taking away rights from LGBTQ+ people, it's important to shed light on what queerness is, how queerness is so fulfilling for so many people, and it's different for so many people," said Nick Drake, who plays one of Lola's Angels. "It tells children, teens, adults, old people, and everyone in between how special it is to feel loved and that acceptance is the most important thing."

In fact, the colorful costumes, energetic dance moves, and bright lights of Kinky Boots are practically made to delight children. Ricky Schroeder, who plays one of Lola's Angels, said he's seen people of all ages in the audience enjoying the show. "I saw a girl who could not have been older than 4 years old in the audience, wearing her little mask, loving the show," said Schroeder said. "It's just smiles plastered on their faces, some tears in their eyes."

The musical speaks to young people finding themselves.

Since the original Kinky Boots movie came out in 2005, and even since the show's 2013 Broadway premiere, openly identifying as LGBT+ has become much more accepted, which Kinky Boots celebrates. "I am watching young people come to the theatre who identify differently than I did when I was their age, because we're allowed to," said director/choreographer Jerry Mitchell, who identifies as gay. "And because 'accept yourself and accept others too' is the number one rule."

Of course, there is still a ways to go in terms of universal acceptance, which Mitchell also acknowledges: "[LGBTQ+ people] are responding to the show, and to Lola and to Charlie and to all of these characters, because they watch them change," the director/choreographer said. "They wish other people in their world would change as quickly as they do in two hours at a Broadway musical." But Kinky Boots provides hope that such a change is possible. The show also reminds people of any age that it's okay if they don't know who they are yet, and they, too, can grow and change as they figure out their identities.

Kinky Boots celebrates strong women (and people of all genders).

Kinky Boots has lots of strong female and feminine leads. Lola and the Angels command the stage with confidence, charisma, and power at every moment. Lauren, an employee at Price & Son, comes up with the idea for the company to find a niche market, and that idea saves the factory. Timid and unsure at the start, she goes on her own journey of growth and becomes more comfortable as a leader.

There's also Nicola, Charlie's hometown sweetheart and fiancée. She wants to leave their small town in Northampton, get a high-powered job, and start a life together in London. Even when she and Charlie discover their dreams don't line up, she's not afraid to put her own ambitions first.

"The last scene I have with Charlie... it's such a powerful scene for me because I feel so strong as a woman," said Brianna Stoute, who plays Nicola. "I know what I want in that scene, and I'm going to do what I need to do and I don't need a man to do what I need to do."

Kinky Boots is great for first-time theatregoers.

If you want go to the theatre to escape the world, Kinky Boots provides a perfect haven. "We're at a point in our world where we need more love and acceptance and joy and fun and togetherness," said Kevin Smith Kirkwood, who plays an Angel. "All of those things are what Kinky Boots is all about."

Kinky Boots is what you think of when you imagine a Broadway musical: lots of flashy color and light, energetic singing and dancing, and plenty of musical comedy fun. Just because the show is in an Off-Broadway theatre now doesn't mean Kinky Boots is any less grand. "The energy and excitement is electric," Kirkwood said. Even our own critic wrote that the show still has "its heart and glittery heels intact," and the more intimate space gives audiences a closer look at the fashion. Gregg Barnes's costumes are "eye-popping enough for the runway at RuPaul's Drag Race."

The show is also great for first-timers because Kinky Boots has a recognizable songwriter. Legally Blonde and Into the Woods star Andy Karl summed it up. "It's Cyndi Lauper, c'mon, guys!" he said. "Everything in this [show] is going to be great!"

If you don't know much about musicals but are familiar with Cyndi Lauper's catchy pop music, expect the same amount of heart and fun from her Tony and Grammy Award-winning Kinky Boots songs.

The show is full of joy. 

If none of the above applies to you, surely this one will. Who couldn't use two-plus hours of fun, community, and glitter? 

"A show about love that oozes positivity and leaves you feeling happy and connected, especially post-pandemic, is the exact energy we need," said Matthew Michael Janisse, who plays the factory worker Mutt.

It's clear from the opening number that the actors are all having fun, too, and it's infectious. Kinky Boots's Lola, Callum Francis, described it as "a tsunami of love."

"Kinky Boots finds itself in places where it needs it most," Francis said. "America and New York and the world, really — we just need a bit of joy."

Get Kinky Boots tickets now.

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