Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

Kinky Boots
National Tour
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's reviews of La Cage aux Folles and District Merchants


J. Harrison Ghee
Photo by Matthew Murphy
"Drag queens are mainstream," Lola (J. Harrison Ghee) declares in Kinky Boots, now on tour at the Kennedy Center Opera House in Washington. In an interesting quirk of timing, this solidly entertaining musical is running concurrently with book writer Harvey Fierstein's earlier musical about drag and personal identity, La Cage aux Folles, which is getting a resplendent production just across the Potomac at Signature Theatre.

Kinky Boots, winner of the 2013 Tony Award for Best Musical and honored for Cyndi Lauper's pulsing rock and disco score, is an old-fashioned story at heart. Fierstein's book, based on the 2005 screenplay by Geoff Deane and Tim Firth, concerns Charlie Price (Adam Kaplan) and his efforts to keep the family shoe factory in business - and how a chance encounter with Lola points his efforts in a new direction.

Director and choreographer Jerry Mitchell keeps the action bubbling, whether in the moments involving Lola and her backup "angels" or the more down-to-earth scenes in and around the factory. While the story has elements of tension and uncertainty, no one really doubts that Charlie will give up a life selling real estate in trendy London with his high-maintenance fiancée Nicola (Charissa Hogeland) to save the jobs of the shoemakers, that factory worker Lauren (Tiffany Engen) will get what she hopes for, and that burly Don (Aaron Walpole) will make peace with Lola.

Ghee's performance lives up to the larger-than-life personality of Lola (he's tall even without the stiletto heels), just oozing with attitude as he struts, sings, faces down the difficulties in his life, and deals with rejection by striking back. Charlie is necessarily a less flashy role, but Kaplan confidently takes him from uncertainty through inspiration to success. Engen gets her great solo moment too, pouring out "The History of Wrong Guys" as she sees the changes in Charlie, and everyone in the cast knocks him- or herself out to engage the audience.

Mitchell's fluid staging makes the most of David Rockwell's scenic design with its metal staircase, tall industrial windows and, in one inspired bit of choreography, treadmills. Gregg Barnes' costumes are amusing at times and generally perfect for the characters, and Kenneth Posner's lighting design helps create a variety of locations on the unit set.

Kennedy Center
Kinky Boots
June 14th - July 10th
Book by Harvey Fierstein
Music and lyrics by Cyndi Lauper
Based on the Miramax motion picture Kinky Boots written by Geoff Deane and Tim Firth
Mr. Price: Tom Souhrada
Young Charlie: Hudson Loverro or Aidan Passaro
Young Lola: Jayden Brown or Jhazz Fleming
Simon Sr.: Horace V. Rogers
Nicola: Charissa Hogeland
Charlie Price: Adam Kaplan
George: Jim J. Bullock
Don: Aaron Walpole
Lauren: Tiffany Engen
Pat: Patty Lohr
Harry: Josh Tolle
Lola: J. Harrison Ghee
Angels: Joe Beauregard, Joseph Anthony Byrd, Sam Dowling, JP Qualters, Xavier Reyes, Sam Rohloff
Trish Shawna M. Hamic:
Richard Bailey: Zach Adkins
Milan Stage Manager: Annie Edgerton
Ensemble: Zach Adkins, Joe Beauregard, Damien Brett, Joseph Anthony Byrd, Sam Dowling, Annie Edgerton, Shawna M. Hamic, Patty Lohr, Ashley Moniz, Jennifer Noble, JP Qualters, Xavier Reyes, Horace V. Rogers, Sam Rohloff, Tom Souhrada, Josh Tolle, Sam Zeller
Directed and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell
Opera House, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
2700 F St. NW, Washington, DC
Ticket Information: (800) 444-1324 or (202) 467-4600 or www.kennedy-center.org.
For more information on the tour, visit kinkybootsthemusical.com.


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