I’ve seen a lot of musicals. A lot. And I have felt passionately (in a positive way) about many. But none was quite as enjoyable as Kinky Boots playing through March  26, 2017 at the Buell Theatre. The storyline stayed true to the movie of the same name starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, thank goodness, because that film was a glorious blend of soot, grit, beige, nastiness and toil mixed with glitz, glam, red, sweetness and love.

Kinky Boots tells the inspired-by-real-life story of a group of people who go from floundering in a failing shoe manufacturing plant in England to transforming their product, and themselves, by making boots catering to drag queens. Along the way, everyone learns about acceptance of self and others. I wouldn’t have wanted that great storyline to have been changed too much. Instead, the stage production brought all the good and the bad to life, right there in front of the audience, with performances that were, literally, amazing – how do those men (and women) strut around so effortlessly in thigh-high, six-inch-heel-high boots, belt out songs, dance, flip and amuse?!

Kinky Boots
Photo by Matthew Murphy, courtesy of DCPA.

With music by Cindi Lauper, I was, initially concerned that there would be too much schmaltz. Instead, Lauper’s score elevated the show. Turning Kinky Boots the story, into Kinky Boots the musical, turned out to be a natural. Wherever there is emotion, there is room for a song, which is why I have often wished that in real life we could just break into a song that really captured the feeling of that moment (and that there was a microphone taped to my head and a good spotlight nearby.) The intelligent and witty lyrics with great hooks to the melodies rounded out the story and the characters beautifully.

Kinky Boots
Photo by Matthew Murphy, courtesy of DCPA.

While all of the performances were strong, with well-developed characters, standouts included Timothy Ware as fabulous Simon/Lola (great voice, great gams, fabulous comedic skill) and Rose Hemingway as the very endearing co-worker/champion, Lauren. A shout-out to Jim J. Bullock, who plays George, who I recognized from re-runs of “Too Close for Comfort” and “Roseanne.” 

Visually (and in tone and message, in many ways), the show is a mixture of Once and The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. If you liked either one, you’ll love Kinky Boots for the messages of being open to different people, different dreams and a different plan for your life, all while wearing beautiful footwear, of course. It’s a show that is more timely than ever and more entertaining than ever too. 

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