Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay
Harvey Fierstein's clever reworking of Geoff Deane and Tim Firth's screenplay for the 2005 film of the same name measures up beautifully. The story is about a small shoe factory that saves itself by reorganizing its stock from men's oxfords to fetish footwear. Charlie Price is the head of the factory and Lola is a drag queen who becomes the project's design consultant. Lola has to overcome the prejudices of the workers. Of course it all ends happily.
J. Harrison Ghee is absolutely outstanding as Lola. He is both muscular and at ease in mascara. He makes you feel that Lola takes pride in his profession, dismissing recreational transvestites as people "who look like Winston Churchill in their mum's knickers." He has powerful vocal cords and belts out every song, especially the effervescent "The Land of Lola" and "Sex Is in the Heel" and the poignant "Hold Me in Your Heart."
Adam Kaplan with his golden vocal chops is fabulous as Charlie. He beautifully belts out "Step One" and "The Soul of a Man." The musical benefits greatly from the permeating presence of a sextet of drag artists known as the Angels. While wearing gorgeous costumes by Gregg Barnes they do splits and cartwheels, and they even do a turn on a conveyor belt in the factory at the end of the first act.
Tiffany Engen is hilarious as Lauren, the factory worker with a crush on Charlie. She is pitch perfect singing "The History of Wrong Guys." Charissa Hogeland as Charlie's social-striving fiancée Nicola, Aaron Walpole as the homophobic factory hand, and Patty Lohr as Pat all give fine performances with their strong vocal cords.
There is one dynamic number after another under Ryan Fielding Garrett's full orchestra. With its catching energy and opulently entertaining performance, Kinky Boots is one of the best touring musicals of the season.
Kinky Boots runs through May 22nd, 2016, at the Golden Gate Theatre, 1 Taylor Street, San Francisco. For tickets call 888-746-1799 or on line at shnsf.com. For more information on the tour, visit kinkybootsthemusical.com/tour.php.