BWW Review: KINKY BOOTS at Diamond Head Theatre
"Our world needs more love." Spoken during the after-show 'Talk-Back Sunday' session by Kwame Michael Remy, his statement resounds, especially through the themes and performances in Diamond Head Theatre's (DHT) Kinky Boots. A superb show imbued with stellar lead performances, dazzling choreography, and impressive production elements, this show is certainly one that is a welcome addition to the gamut of DHT masterpieces.
The musical follows the story of a nearly bankrupt shoe factory in Northampton, England, run by Charlie Price (an always charismatic Zachary Linnert), who suddenly loses his father and must quickly learn the ropes of the family business, frantically brainstorming ways to reinvigorate the business with fresh sartorial ideas in order to try and keep it afloat, all the while being "badgered" by his fiancee Nicola (Jody Bill). Along this process, he coincidentally runs into Lola (fabulous, the aforementioned Remy), a drag queen, who is confident in "her" overall self, embracing it, paying to mind to those that can't "accept someone for who they are". What ensues from this chance encounter is a business partnership, in which the two work together to design two-and-a-half-feet boots for the underserved demographic of drag queens throughout London---red ones, mind you, not burgundy---leading to an eventual friendship.
This DHT production is undoubtedly the best one that comes to mind since Billy Elliot---a show with similar Cockney themes---one that truly shines in all aspects, ranging from the performances, to the costumes, to the direction, etc. As previously noted, the performances by both Remy and Linnert are outstanding, with Remy truly being the fulcrum of the show. From his ability to proudly flaunt all of the characteristics that Lola believes in, in such a grandiose style, to shedding light on her more vulnerable moments, this is the best Guest Artist performance in recent memory at DHT. The cast also features some solid supporting players, notably Vanessa Manuel-Mazzullo as Lauren, always on her A-game, bringing comedic charm to the story, as the character who quickly develops a crush on Charlie, who also has the catchiest song in the show: "The History of Wrong Guys", in addition to Will Thompson as Don, the "macho, buff guy" who instills some villainy within the plot but has an interesting character arc to watch unfold.
Other excellent aspects of the show include its creative elements, like the choreography by Andrew Sakaguchi, on double duty, also as the show's director, and the costumes by resident Costumer Karen G. Wolfe. Both of these elements nicely coalesce, especially during the numbers when Lola's 'Angels' are on stage, dancing their hearts out, in their ferocious boots and heels. The musical direction by Phil Hidalgo as well as the hair and makeup design by Aiko Schick also pop, adding to the show's overall fabulous energy.
I had the pleasure of seeing this musical on Broadway in December 2018, months before its closing, and of the ten shows I saw, Kinky Boots was undoubtedly the best. However, this is where the "fault" of DHT's version lies: it's practically identical in the overall production value to Broadway's. While all elements of DHT's version are exceptional, I found myself wishing that it would take a risk and put its own stamp on the production, as many of the theatre's productions so often do. However, this shouldn't be of any distraction to patrons of this theatre, as they will leave hopefully having had an excellent time, basking in the prevalent theme of love and acceptance, as it remains incredibly topical, especially in today's society, as was the 2005 film on which the show is based, one that remains highly underrated but equally enjoyable.
Overall, Kinky Boots is an exciting, pleasurable time at the theatre. Its rock n' roll-esque vibes as well as its overall production value makes this a show to truly behold. You will probably find yourself falling in love with it, Lola, and those stupendous titular boots.
For tickets, call 808-733-0274.