Review Roundup: KINKY BOOTS Opens on Broadway - All the Reviews!
Kinky Boots, from four-time Tony Award-winner Harvey Fierstein (book), Grammy Award-winning rock icon Cyndi Lauper (Music & Lyrics), Tony Award-winner Jerry Mitchell (Director & Choreographer), began preview performances on Broadway at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre (302 West 45th Street) on March 3, 2013 and opens tonight, April 4, 2013.
In Kinky Boots, Charlie Price (Sands) has suddenly inherited his father's shoe factory, which is on the verge of bankruptcy. Trying to live up to his father's legacy and save his family business, Charlie finds inspiration in the form of Lola (Porter). A fabulous entertainer in need of some sturdy stilettos, Lola turns out to be the one person who can help Charlie become the man he's meant to be. As they work to turn the factory around, this unlikely pair finds that they have more in common than they ever dreamed possible... and discovers that when you change your mind about someone, you can change your whole world.
Inspired by a true story and based on the film, Kinky Boots features a book by Mr. Fierstein (La Cage, Torch Song Trilogy, Newsies) and a score from Ms. Lauper, in her theatrical debut. Mr. Mitchell (Hairspray, La Cage, Broadway Bares) has crafted a production described as bound to move, inspire and set audience's feet dancing.
Let's see what the critics had to say...
Ben Brantley, The New York Times: "Kinky Boots," with a book by Harvey Fierstein and directed by Jerry Mitchell, is a reminder that you don't always have to be a masochist to enjoy being smashed by a steamroller...Unlike her more commercially savvy coeval Madonna, Ms. Lauper has held on to the same goofy image throughout her career, and, equally unlike Madonna, she has always seemed to sing from the heart. That sincerity comes through in "Kinky Boots"...The leading players here - notably Stark Sands, Billy Porter and Annaleigh Ashford - pick up on the trademark Lauper mix of sentimentality and eccentricity, but each makes it his or her own. Under Mr. Mitchell's precise and affectionate direction, they do what you want performers in musicals to do: they define specific characters by the way they sing and move.
Mark Kennedy, Associated Press: The show that opened Thursday at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre is so full of good will - did you expect anything less from Lauper or Fierstein? - that only a curmudgeon could walk out and not want to hug the crowds in Times Square, even the sketchy ones in cartoon costumes. True, the second half is almost completely unnecessary, the English accents are laughable and the footwear puns are relentless. But who cares? This is a big ol' sweet love story about sons, the families we make and red patent leather...the real star is Porter, who delivers a touching, sassy, nuanced performance, often in 8-inch heels. One character sums up his importance to this show by saying, "Whenever you leave a room, there's always a great big gaping gap." Amen.
David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter: Who doesn't love Cyndi Lauper? A proudly idiosyncratic pop priestess since the early '80s, she's always been way more real than her contemporary, Madonna, let alone such 21st century descendants as Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj. Rocking the thrift-store chic and subjecting her hair to chemical torture, Lauper has made a career out of celebrating her extravagant individuality and everybody else's with the unpretentious chutzpah of a true-blue Queens girl. The fact that her infectious spirit shines through every number in her first Broadway musical score is unquestionably the chief asset of Kinky Boots, helping to elevate the show above its familiar template.
Elisabeth Vincentelli, NY Post: There are few things theatergoers love more than musicals about persistence and self-acceptance. Cyndi Lauper's taken those themes to heart, too, in songs such as "True Colors," so it's no surprise that her first score, "Kinky Boots," finds her at ease on Broadway. And since Lauper teamed up with book writer Harvey Fierstein, the man behind "La Cage aux Folles," rahrah empowerment gushes out of the likable but heavy-handed show as if from a broken pipe.
Thom Geier, Entertainment Weekly: Whenever Porter is on stage, though, he elevates a musical that might otherwise seem like a club-ready mash-up of La Cage aux Folles, The Full Monty, Billy Elliot, and Cabaret. Porter displays remarkable vocal versatility, making showstoppers out of three very different but equally catchy Lauper tunes: the disco song 'Sex Is in the Heel,' the affecting ballad 'I'm Not My Father's Son,' and the Whitney Houston-like anthem 'Hold Me in Your Heart.' Thanks to Porter's star-making turn, Kinky Boots delivers some pumps-up kicks. B+
Joe Dziemianowicz, NY Daily News: Porter ("Dreamgirls") is a force of nature as Lola. Sands ("American Idiot"), in the tamer role, makes Charlie wonderfully appealing. Annaleigh Ashford ("Dogfight") turns her musical lament about choosing the wrong men into a sweet highlight. Andy Kelso is terrific as Charlie's old pal; it's too bad he has just one scene.
Elysa Gardner, USA Today: The musical highlights are the more boisterous numbers, where Lauper imbues textures lifted from the Motown and disco eras with a sizzling theatricality that's bound to put a little more spring in your step and cheer in your heart. Even if you're just wearing flats.
Charles McNulty, Los Angeles Times: This slavering-to-please production, directed and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell and featuring Lauper's recycled blend of pop and funk, is a tall, overstuffed wedding cake crammed with so much sugary filling that even those with an insatiable sweet tooth might prefer a slice of cantaloupe instead. By turns entertaining and stultifying, "Kinky Boots," which had a tryout production last year in Chicago but could still use another round of tinkering, takes too much time to hit its stride.
Peter Marks, The Washington Post: When it's good, "Kinky Boots," the new Broadway musical with the rocking Cyndi Lauper score, is sweetly, vivaciously, irresistibly good. And when it's not so good - well, let's not dwell for the moment on the not-so-good. The show, which opened Thursday night at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre, is the sort of party for which you will be more than pleased to find yourself on the guest list.
Jeremy Gerard, Bloomberg: Based on the genial 2005 film of the same name, "Kinky Boots" is feel-good theater, a cut above similar recent shows like "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" and "Sister Act." Lauper's songs are smart and funny, if not always memorable, though Porter kills in "Sex is in the Heel," a number that pretty much sums up the show.
Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune: Lauper, a genuine and necessarily fearless original - happily lassoed for duty on a Great White Way in dire need of a woman with so many melodic hooks in her bag of tricks - has been promoting dance-fueled tolerance for decades. And that distinguished history, judiciously coupled with a book by the famously droll and direct Fierstein, is riveted into the stiletto heels dancing through industrial Britain in this show - a witty, striking and emotionally centered movie-to-musical transfer about a down-at-heel Northampton shoe factory that reinvents itself by making reinforced footwear for hefty drag queens.
Matt Windman, AM New York: At first glance, "Kinky Boots" would appear to contain all the ingredients of a hit musical...So why does this musical, which looks and acts like a crowd-pleaser, still feel so unsatisfying? The biggest problem is that Lauper's electric-pop songs are generic. Furthermore, Jerry Mitchell's production resembles a slick but uninspired rehash of all his earlier shows such as "The Full Monty" (the working class environment), "La Cage aux Folles" (flashy drag queens and Harvey Fierstein's one-liners) and "Hairspray" (a spunky spirit). But there is a saving grace to "Kinky Boots" and it's Billy Porter, who imbues the role of Lola with fierce diva attitude in a Tony-worthy performance. 2.5 stars
Linda Winer, Newsday: But there is also news in this entirely predictable, tenderly unassuming extravaganza, written by Harvey Fierstein ("La Cage") and directed by Jerry Mitchell ("Legally Blonde") with almost scene-by-scene, line-by-line fidelity to the film. That news -- and it is very good indeed -- is Cyndi Lauper, who makes a smashing Broadway debut as composer and lyricist...Lauper, unlike many recent theatrical pop-crossovers, changes her sounds to illuminate each character without losing her identity...Lauper and Fierstein are never onstage, but their spirits elevate a very conventional show with wit and sweetness.
Robert Kahn, WNBC: If you're going to stage a musical about fathers and sons, expectations and disappointment, you couldn't ask for more promising shepherds than rock icon Cyndi Lauper and four-time Tony winner Harvey Fierstein. Separately, each has created some of the more affirming material in the self-acceptance canon (think "True Colors," and "La Cage aux Folles"). What the duo has conjured together in "Kinky Boots," which has just opened at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre, is a vibrant, if choppy tale about carving your own identity, with bold, brassy music that delivers on its promise, and a story that, like so much from this genre, is often predictable.
Terry Teachout, Wall Street Journal: Ms. Lauper, who is better known as a singer than a songwriter, has written the score of "Kinky Boots" all by herself, and it sounds like it came off a boxed set called "Cyndi: The Deservedly Forgotten Late-'80s B-Sides." Jerry Mitchell, the director and choreographer, has done his best to make something out of nothing, but he is incapable of coaxing an interesting performance out of Mr. Sands, who is a good singer and a dull actor. Mr. Porter, more or less conversely, is a good actor and a just-about-adequate singer. Who cares? You won't.
Robert Feldberg, NorthJersey.com: What "Kinky Boots" sorely lacks is a dramatic commitment to what it's doing. Which is why a show that seems to make few false steps is so relentlessly tedious.
Adam Feldman, Time Out: Yet the musical holds up for the same reason Price & Son's products do: solid craftsmanship and care. Lauper is a musical-theater natural, combining bright, infectious melodies with simple but effective lyrics. As each act progresses, the energy rises palpably, boosted by a heart-strong cast. Porter brings tough sass, wounded dignity and husky vocal authority to a part he has seemingly been training all his life to play; and as Charlie's lovelorn underling, the sweetly tart Annaleigh Ashford-she of the perfectly timed comic take-adds another stolen show to her rap sheet. The overall effect is nigh irresistible; if you've been low about this season's musicals, Kinky Boots may be just the thing to get you back on your feet.
Erik Haagensen, Backstage: There's no use putting up a fight with "Kinky Boots." The Broadway adaptation of the hit 2005 Miramax film about a struggling shoe factory in the north of England and the drag queens who help to save it is the feel-good musical of the season. Yes, Harvey Fierstein's funny book is a bit too bald, Cyndi Lauper's catchy songs are more lyrically repetitive than they should be, and director-choreographer Jerry Mitchell slights character and story in favor of splashy production numbers. Still, boasting a powerhouse performance from Billy Porter as Lola, the drag queen who's also a trained boxer, the damn thing works.
Alexis Soloski, UK Guardian: We can credit costume designer Gregg Barnes with the boots - they really are luscious. But similar originality evades most of the songs, which, though tuneful enough, fade from the mind as soon as the last note has sounded. A few exceptions are The History of Wrong Guys, a clever girl/dumb choices number milked gleefully by Annaleigh Ashford, and I'm Not My Father's Son, a duet for Sands and Porter. Most of the others, even those that promise well, ultimately come across as generic, accomplishing little in terms of revealing character or driving plot. Certainly there's nothing to rival the poignancy of Time After Time, or even the daffy joy of She Bop. Still, Broadway audiences just wanna have fun, and if it means giving a standing O to a uneven book and score, they'll do it.
Christopher Bonanos, Vulture: So, okay, it's not Company-nobody's reinventing the form here. That's all right. What we have, in Kinky Boots, is a well-fitted, well-staged toe-tapper in the contemporary big-Broadway idiom. It's never boring; it's never shocking; you are likely to leave entirely entertained and satisfied. Can't argue with that. The Boy George musical Taboo, which went down some of the same yellow brick roads in 2002, was a somewhat more ambitious show that never cohered; Kinky Boots is clearer, brighter, and much, much better.
Michael Musto, Village Voice: The show is slow to get off its feet--eek, sorry again--but then it starts simmering, at times coming off like a very special Broadway Bares, with more of a throughline...Cyndi Lauper's score is varied, rich, and much more interesting than the usual Broadway fare...By the end, the talented Porter has veritably become Whitney Houston while learning the importance of being a man. Some of the themes and machinations may seem off the conveyor belt--a device that's integral to one of the numbers--but when a musical is accessorized with stagecraft like this, one learns acceptance. You'll stand at the end, even if it hurts.
Brendan Lemon, Financial Times: The love stories, as it happens, are among the few disappointing bits in Boots, which has been given tuneful songs by Cyndi Lauper, in her Broadway-composer debut, and infectious direction and choreography by Jerry Mitchell. Central character Charlie Price has inherited his family's shoe factory in Northampton, just at the moment when his girlfriend, Nicola, has whisked him away to London for a more stylish life. As Charlie, Stark Sands is saddled with an odd second-act plot development, but is redeemed with a winning finale.