Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
First and most important, Solomon Parker III owns the stage every time he appears as Lola, the London drag queen who energizes Charlie Price (Vincent Kempski) to find success in unexpected places. Lola struts, he flirts, he takes no crap, and he always seems to stand taller than anyone around him.
Charlie has inherited his family's struggling shoe factory in northern England. Having grown up with his employees, he needs to keep them from losing their jobs and their purpose. An accidental meeting with Lola during a trip to London inspires him to shift the factory's product from traditional, even boring, well-made shoes to "two and a half feet of irresistible tubular sex" (Lola's description of stiletto-heeled boots) that hold up under a man's weight. Kempski's role has less flash than Parker's, of course, but he demonstrates both the character's backbone and openness to change through the way he carries himself and his soulful singing.
Choreographer Tara Jeanne Vallee gives the most impressive moves not just to Lola, but to the corps of six "angels" who provide backup support both onstage and off. Whether at the club where Lola performs or bringing attitude to the shoe factory, these dancers–on press night, Malachi Alexander, Quadry Brown, Robbie Duncan, Shane Hall, Daniel Powers, and David Singleton–glitter in Kendra Rai's rainbow of costumes and the elaborately sculptured wigs (in hues to match the costumes) designed by Larry Peterson. Actually, all of Rai's costumes deserve their own applause.
That said, Vallee's choreography is not restricted to the "performer" characters. She has created some ingenious moves on and around the factory's conveyor belt and a fancy tango for Lola and her main antagonist, Don (Chris Genebach). Genebach, along with Alex De Bard as an opinionated employee and Candice Shedd-Thompson as Charlie's snooty fiancée, give well-thought-out performances that flesh out more generic characters.
Christopher Youstra conducts seven other musicians from the keyboard, providing the necessary rich sound with a pulsing beat.
Kinky Boots runs through March 26, 2023, the Olney Theatre Center, Mainstage, 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road, Olney MD. For tickets and information, please call 301-924-3400 or visit www.olneytheatre.org.
Book by Harvey Fierstein