Regional Reviews: Florida - Southern
Also see John's review of Billy Elliot the Musical
Set in Northampton, England, Kinky Boots tells the story of Charlie Price, who inherits a shoe factory from his father. Charlie has just moved away from small town life in Northampton to London with his status-conscious fiancée Nicola. When he returns to Northampton he discovers the factory is floundering and in danger of closing. To save the business, Charlie forms an unlikely partnership with a cabaret performer and drag queen named Lola. With Lola's help as a designer, Charlie develops a plan to produce a line of ultra-stylish high-heeled boots designed to support the weight of even the sturdiest drag queen. Despite their differences, and some resistance from Charlie's employees, Charlie and Lola find mutual respect and acceptance is the key to success in their business as well as their personal lives.
Song after song, and scene after scene reinforce the message of this musicalacceptance. There is no missing the point when it is restated so clearly. It is almost surprising that such a simplistic theme would be met with universal acclaim. Perhaps it is a matter of fortunate timing and the complete sincerity with which it is written. We all have the need to be loved and accepted, and must offer that in return to find fulfillment.
J. Harrison Ghee is a force to be reckoned with as Lola. Stylish, commanding, and dynamic, he is the center of attention in each scene he appears. Clearly, he excels with the drag persona, but that merely scratches the surface of his talent. His voice is nearly as soulful as that of Luther Vandross in the duet "Not My Father's Son," and his performance in the ballad "Hold Me in Your Heart" is worthy of any female pop diva. Lola is framed by a bevy of fellow drag singer/dancers who act as his back-up girls, called Angels. They are all various versions of glamorous, leggy illusions of seduction and femininity used to full advantage whenever possible.
Adam Kaplan is an able singer and actor as Charlie Price. His performance is likable and honest. He is, however, so overshadowed by Ghee that his performance comes off as that of a far less experienced actor. He is paired at first with the beautiful Charissa Hogeland as Nicola, and later with the very funny Tiffany Engen as Lauren. Engen's version of "The History of Wrong Guys" is hysterical, and it is clear she is a strong comedic actress.
True to the throughline of the story, the costumes, wigs, and shoes are sensational. A 16-piece orchestra plays the score with sensitivity. There are times when one can almost imagine the voice of Cyndi Lauper singing some of the melody hooks. The lighting really enhances the action, particularly in the number in which Lola and the Angels are featured. The choreography is sensational, with the talented Angels energetically dancing their way throughout the show. This is a completely enjoyable and uplifting way to spend an evening!
Kinky Boots will be appearing on the Lynn Wolfson Stage of the Ziff Ballet Opera House at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County at 1300 N. Biscayne Blvd., Miami, through December 13, 2015. For information or to purchase tickets, contact them at 305-949-6722, or visit them online at www.arshtcenter.org. For more information on the tour, visit kinkybootsthemusical.com/tour.php.
The actors and stage managers in this production are member of Actors' Equity Association, the union of professional actors and stage managers in the United States.