Don’t be afraid to slip into Kinky Boots

Kinky Boots Tour Photo by Matthew Murphy

Kinky Boots Tour Photo by Matthew Murphy

Back in 2005, a British film about the real-life story of a shoe factory facing closure that turned itself around after focusing on a niche market became an indie hit in the US. That movie, Kinky Boots, was optioned for a new life as a Broadway musical, and took home six Tony Awards in 2013 (more than any other show that year) including Best Musical. The Broadway show is currently in its third year, and the North American National Tour launched in September 2014.

A year later the show is still going strong as it opens the theater season in Baltimore at the Hippodrome Theatre. If you’re unfamiliar with the movie or the musical, the plot focuses on the Price and Son, a successful, family-owned shoe company in Northampton, England. The son, Charlie (Steven Booth), is eager to leave the family business behind and leaves for London with his finacee. Barely settled, Charlie gets the news of his fathers sudden death and returns to try to keep things running.

A massive return on an order of shoes, and a major stockpile of shoes no one wants, puts the company in dire financial straits, so much so that Charlie is giving the employees their two weeks notice. A chance encounter with a damsel in distress, Lola (who isn’t the damsel Charlie thinks), and her damaged footwear turns on a light over Charlie’s head. After seeing Lola (Kyle Taylor Parker) and her “girls” perform at a local nightclub, Charlie offers to make Lola a pair of boots that can withstand the weight of a man performing as a woman. Charlie offers Lola (aka Simon) an opportunity to design the new line of Lola’s Kinky Boots, but her presence is not very welcome among the “real men” of the factory.

Kinky Boots Tour Photo by Matthew Murphy

Kinky Boots Tour Photo by Matthew Murphy

Everyone eventually agrees to get along but the pressures of putting together a collection for the Milan fashion showcase, hiring models, and just getting to Milan is putting so much pressure on Charlie that he unleashes all of his anger not only on the employees, but on Lola as well, saying some very hurtful things. Left alone and with nothing to show, Charlie wonders if he’ll even make it to Milan or if his actions have sunk the company, and more importantly, has he irreparably damaged his relationship with Lola.

The musical production of Kinky Boots is one of the best film-to-stage adaptations I’ve ever seen. Usually things change so much from the movie that if you’re too familiar with it, it can be a jarring experience. Not in this case. The show uses one of those multi-purpose sets that gets transformed from a factory to a nightclub and back just with the change of position and some different lighting, and it all works to great effect (there is one major change with a completely different set at the Milan fashion show). The costumes for the factory workers and Charlie look like anything you’d wear in your daily life. But, the costumes for Lola and the girls are spectacular when they’re performing at the club or just visiting the factory. Lola also wears a stunning chiffon dress during a solo number in the second act that is breathtaking in the way she manipulates the movements of the material. Simply stunning.

Of the cast, there are highs and lows. As the lead, Booth does a fine job as average guy Charlie who just wants something better for himself that working in a shoe factory. The problem was his singing voice, which even with a mic was not powerful enough to reach the back row (either that or he really pissed off the sound engineers). It becomes even more noticeable when he’s sharing the stage with the powerhouse that is Parker, who comes through loud and clear.

Kinky Boots Tour Photo by Matthew Murphy

Kinky Boots Tour Photo by Matthew Murphy

In fact, Parker simply steals the show every time he’s on stage, whether as Lola or Simon (but mostly he’s Lola). He works every line of dialog for what it’s work, particularly at the beginning as Lola is trying to impress upong Charlie and his employees that the boots have to have a very specific look because the “sex is in the heel.” Parker works the word “sex” to great effect and then launches into a terrific song. Lola and her girls also liven up the first act with their introduction into the show, “Land of Lola.” It’s safe to say Lola gets all of the best songs and dialog courtesy of Cyndi Lauper and Harvey Fierstein. But for all of Lola’s great upbeat, fun numbers, she stops the show with a Whitney Houston-esque performance of “Hold Me In Your Heart,” the song Lola sings to express the hurt she felt after Charlie lashed out, that will bring tears to your eyes. It was a stunning moment.

Kyle Taylor Parker simply steals the show tweet

Lindsay Nicole Chambers also gets a nod for her role of Lauren, an employee of Price and Son who has a major crush on Charlie (even though he is engaged) and reveals her feelings to the audience in the song “The History of Wrong Guys.” Chambers gives Lauren some cute mannerisms that make her really endearing, and you certainly root for Charlie to open his eyes to see someone who is willing to accept him for who he is, unlike his finacee who wants him to be someone totally different.

And that is what the message of Kinky Boots is – learn to accept others for who they are, and learn to accept and love yourself for who you are. Be yourself, don’t try to change for someone else or for the rest of the world. If you’re different, celebrate your differences because it’s the rest of the world that has a problem of not accepting you. For a show that seems to be about the salvation of a shoe factory, it really carries an important message for us all.

Kinky Boots runs through October 4 in Baltimore and continues touring through the summer of 2016, hitting many cities across the country including Columbus, Fort Worth, Austin, Tampa, Miami, Norfolk, Charlotte, New Orleans, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Seattle, Washington DC and many more. You can visit the show’s official website by clicking on the banner at the top of the page or the link on the Shows Currently On Tour sidebar. Definitely a show to see, and a great way to start the season.

 

Kinky Boots, The New Musical based on a True Story

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Kinky Boots

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