BWW Reviews: Pantages Shows Off KINKY BOOTS
Following in the footsteps of La Cage Aux Folles, Billy Elliott and Priscilla Queen of the Desert, all foreign films turned into Broadway musicals, Kinky Boots, the 2013 Tony Award-winning Best Musical, brings its spirited message of "Just Be Who You Wanna Be" to the Pantages in its West Coast premiere for three weeks only through November 30. Replete with splashy direction and choreography by Jerry Mitchell and a splendid cast, it's top.of.the.line entertaining fare.
In a nutshell Charlie Price (Steven Booth) is heir to his father's shoe business in Northampton England, but he wants more, so sets off for London with his fiance Nicola (Grace Stockdale). His father's death brings him back to the faltering business and he must find a way, like it or not, to keep the shoe factory thriving. One of the workers in the factory Lauren (Lindsay Nicole Chambers) is in love with him, but knows she doesn't stand a chance with Nicola around. One night on the street Charlie encounters Simon, a drag queen known as Lola (Kyle Taylor Parker) who is being bullied by some roughnecks, and he attempts to help her out. She ruins the heel of her boot in the scuffle and Charlie, to the rescue once more, tells her he can fix it. Once inside the club where Lola performs, Charlie is introduced to the very different world of the drag queen and how they dress - which includes the very tall boots they wear. He starts to think of a way to make the shoe factory thrive by making...kinky boots for the drags. But...his biggest opposition comes in redneck workers Don (Joe Coots) and friends who refuse to accept Simon (Lola) for who he is. The crux of the story is making Lola a designer of the line of boots, which is no easy task with the opposition at play, It is Charlie's goal to save his father's shoe factory and at the same time create his own true success. It is also Lola's chance to prove his worth as a man, as his father had never approved of his choices. So Charlie and Lola realize how very much they have in common ("Not My Father's Son")
As in La Cage, Billy Elliott and Priscilla, each character who stands apart must prove his metal by fighting the odds and coming out on top. It's a struggle but that's what makes life interesting and in the end most worthwhile. Lola like Albin in La Cage proves that he is what he is, saving himself from disgrace and friend Charlie's business simultaneously.
This is a happy ending musical that is up, up, up all the way from start to finish. It's glitzy entertainment with splashy costumes from Gregg Barnes, vibrant lighting design from Kenneth Posner and electric sound design by John Shivers. Sets by David Rockwell are colorful especially as they connect the two worlds of the factory and Lola's performance stages. Harvey Fierstein's book - he knows a thing or two about a man performing in a dress, as he won a Tony for writing La Cage Aux Folles back in 1983 - is crisp and bright allowing both men to have their special moments of comaraderie and isolation. Cydi Lauper's songs are quite palpable, a throwback to 70s disco with some pretty terrific ballads like "Soul of a Man" for Charlie and "Hold Me in Your Heart" for Lola as well as the aforementioned "Not My Father's Son". Fast tunes like "Sex Is in the Heel", "What a Woman Wants", "The Most Beautiful Thing in the World" and "Raise You Up/Just Be" pulsate, rocking the roof off the theatre, as the ensemble move deliciously to the fast and furiously ecstatic choreographic moves of director Jerry Mitchell.
The acting is superlative from Parker as Lola and Booth as Charlie. Parker's Lola is cool and sassy. But, he must show Simon's insecurity, and somehow magically brings the two sides together into a perfect fit, like the boots themselves. Booth adds intensity to Charlie who feels his manhood change as he must let go of Nicola and find his own image as a working man, outside his father's shadow. Other standouts in the cast are Stockdale and Chambers. Chambers is precious with "The History of Wrong Guys", making Lauren's inner expression of love totally magical. Coots is simply dynamite as Don, the bully with a heart of gold. Praise to the entire triple threat ensemble!
You certainly will not learn anything new from Kinky Boots, but boy oh boy, will you have a good time! Let yourself go and appreciate who you are or who you wanna be!