Regional Reviews: Boston
Inspired by true events and based on the 2005 film, Kinky Boots stars Steven Booth as Charlie Price, the reluctant inheritor of his late father's failing shoe factory in northern England, and Kyle Taylor Parker as Lola, a fabulous and flamboyant entertainer who provides the niche market that just might save Charlie's business. As different as they appear to be, the pair finds common ground in their personal lives that helps them forge a strong partnership, changing each other's lives and the minds and lives of those around them. Accompanying them into the uncharted territory are: George (Craig Waletzko), the traditionalist factory manager; Lauren (Lindsay Nicole Chambers), a pretty working class girl who develops a crush on Charlie; Don (Joe Coots), a burly factory worker who becomes Lola's nemesis; and the Angels (Joe Beauregard, Darius Harper, Tommy Martinez, Ricky Schroeder, Juan Torres-Falcon, Hernando Umana), Lola's backup drag performers who elevate the flair quotient and act as a Greek chorus.
With Mitchell's choreography and Adam Souza conducting eleven musicians, Lauper's score brings Kinky Boots to life, but Lola brings the sizzle. When Parker is onstage, his magnetism makes it impossible to take your eyes off of him. Conversely, when he is not in a scene, a little air goes out of the room. He gives a fully realized portrayal, but especially shines in the boxing arena ("In This Corner") and when powerfully delivering his eleven o'clock number ("Hold Me in Your Heart"). Having been in the original Broadway cast as one of the Angels and understudy for Billy Porter (Lola), Parker's experience with the show informs his performance, infusing Lola's swagger with understated confidence and conveying both her heart and her soul.
Charlie is a less sympathetic character, but Booth has an easygoing manner that prevents him from crossing into unfavorable territory. Whereas Lola can stand on her own merit, Charlie is best viewed in his relationships with other characters. He rises in contrast to his girlfriend Nicola (Grace Stockdale), shares a burgeoning chemistry with Lauren, shows his strengths and weaknesses with his employees, and begins to understand and accept his shortcomings through his bonding with Lola. Booth has a pop rock style voice and sings earnestly, but the blocking on his big second act number ("Soul of a Man") is tedious, lessening its intended impact.
David Rockwell's scenic design morphs from a working factory with moving conveyor belts (put to very effective use by Mitchell in "Everybody Say Yeah" at the end of the first act) to a London nightclub and fashion runway in Milan, aided by Kenneth Posner's evocative lighting design. Gregg Barnes has a field day with the costumes for all the drag performers, with great care taken to showcase all those boots. Strong contributions to the overall look are made by Josh Marquette (hair design) and Randy Houston Mercer (make-up design). Although he pumps up the volume for the musical numbers, sound designer John Shivers succeeds in balancing the vocals with the orchestra. However, in many of the book scenes, the dialogue lacks clarity, exacerbated by some of the British accents.
Kinky Boots is a crowd pleaser, as evidenced by the enthusiastic audience response. It is flashy on the surface, yet contains a warm, sentimental center with genuine relationships built between credible characters. You'll go for the music, the costumes and the glitter, but you'll end up being moved by the story. And the upbeat finale will send you dancing into the summer night, regardless of what you're wearing on your feet.
Kinky Boots, performances through August 30, 2015, at the Boston Opera House, 539 Washington Street, Boston, MA; Tickets at Ticketmaster 800-982-2787 or www.BroadwayInBoston.com. For more information on the tour, visit kinkybootsthemusical.com.
Book by Harvey Fierstein, Music & Lyrics by Cindy Lauper, Based on the Miramar 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; Music Director, Adam Souza; Production Stage Manager, Gregory R. Covert; Music Supervision, Arrangements & Orchestrations by Stephen Oremus; Directed and Choreographed by Jerry Mitchell
Cast: Kyle Taylor Parker, Steven Booth, Lindsay Nicole Chambers, Joe Coots, Grace Stockdale, Craig Waletzko, Florrie Bagel, Joe Beauregard, Damien Brett, Stephen Carrasco, Lauren Nicole Chapman, Amelia Cormack, J. Harrison Ghee, Adam Halpin, Darius Harper, Nicholas Aaron Jenkins, Jeff Kuhr, Patty Lohr, Mike Longo, Tommy Martinez, Maggie McDowell, Jennifer Noble, Anthony Picarello, Griffin Reese, Jomil Elijah Robinson, Horace V. Rogers, Ricky Schroeder, Nick Sullivan, Anne Tolpegin, Juan Torres-Falcon, Hernando Umana, Sam Zeller
- Nancy Grossman