The plot is your standard Boy Meets Girl, Boy Loses Girl... type of affair, except, here, it's Boy Meets Boy Who Dresses Like Girl, and their attraction is more commercial than romantic. Charlie Price, who has inherited his family's failing shoe factory, has no way of keeping the business afloat, until a chance encounter with a drag queen named Lola convinces him that making boots for this unique niche market might just save everyone's job. From here, the plot is largely predictable, including Charlie's (oddly out-of-character) bigoted rant against Lola, which seems included only to create conflict which (spoiler alert) will be happily resolved by the final curtain.
Steven Booth does a reasonable job with the part of Charlie; indeed, the part is written as so bland, it's a wonder anyone can leave any sort of impression in the role at all. But Booth puts in a valiant effort as the basically decent guy who needs to man up and find his place in the world. He's particularly effective at making a passionate speech about wishing he was passionate about something, and his reaction upon seeing his factory create some genuinely kinky boots suggests that Charlie might be really fun if he just let loose. The real starring role of this show is Lola, taken here by Kyle Taylor Parker. Parker has a terrific singing voice, but his English accent sounds particularly false when speaking, making his book scenes go over poorly. Lola, when in full drag, is a bigger-than-life, self-assured presence who powers through life on charisma, and Parker doesn't quite have the magnetism to pull it off. As a result, he does a better job with Lola as the play progresses and Lola is taken out of her element and forced to show some vulnerability.
Lindsay Nicole Chambers does nice comic work as Lauren, a factory worker who starts to see her boss in a different light. (When the show starts, Charlie is engaged to Nicola, a one-note character who is defined for the audience by her desire for a pair of shoes that cost the equivalent of three months' rent.) But as Nicola drops in Charlie's esteem and Lauren realizes she has a shot, her uncertainty and missteps are adorable, and Chambers plays her just right.
Cyndi Lauper's tunes are upbeat, but a few days later, I can remember none of them. Lyrics are weak ("It's not just a factory/This is my family") and ingrain themselves in memory by means of repetition. Harvey Fierstein's book hits you over the head with its message of tolerance (in case you somehow missed it, the characters pause in the middle of the finale to actually tell you what you should have learned), and throws in a little bit of father/son understanding for good measure. It's designed to make you teary, but I found myself resenting the obvious attempts at emotional manipulation. Perhaps I would have found Kinky Boots more entertaining had it predated Hairspray, but, coming as it did after that show, Kinky Boots seems like it is just covering the same ground, but nowhere near as well.
Kinky Boots runs at the Hollywood Pantages through November 30, 2014. For tickets and information, see www.HollywoodPantages.com. For more information on the tour, visit http://kinkybootsthemusical.com/tour.php.
James L. Nederlander, Terry Allen Kramer, Independent Presenters Network, CJ E&M, Jayne Baron Sherman, Just for Laughs Theatricals/Judith Ann Abrams, Yasuhiro Kawana, Jane Bergére, Allan S. Gordon & Adam S. Gordon, Ken Davenport, Hunter Arnold, Lucy & Phil Suarez, Bryan Bantry, Ron Fierstein & Dorsey Regal, Jim Kierstead/Gregory Rae, BB Group/Christina Papagjika, Michael DeSantis/Patrick Baugh, Brian Smith/Tom & Connie Walsh, Warren Trepp and Jujamcyn Theaters present Kinky Boots. Book by Harvey Fierstein; Music & Lyrics by Cyndi Lauper. Based on the Miramax motion picture Kinky Boots written by Geoff Deane and Tim Firth. Scenic Design David Rockwell; Costume Design Gregg Barnes; Lighting Design Kenneth Posner; Sound Design John Shivers; Hair Design Josh Marquette; Make-up Design Randy Houston Mercer; Associate Choreographer Rusty Mowery; Associate Director D.B. Bonds; Casting Telsey + Company, Justin Huff, CSA; Music Director Adam Souza; Music Coordinator Michael Keller; Technical Supervisor Theatersmith Associates; Production Stage Manager Peter Van Dyke; Associate Producer Amuse Inc.; Exclusive Tour Direction The Road Company; Tour Press & Marketing Allied Live; General Management Foresight Theatrical, Aaron Lustbader. Music Supervision, Arrangements & Orchestrations by Stephen Oremus; Directed and Choreographed by Jerry Mitchell.