BWW Review: KINKY BOOTS at Ogunquit Playhouse
Kinky Boots Takes Over the Ogunquit Playhouse Like No Other Musical
Drag queens save the day and light up the stage in Kinky Boots, the 2013 Tony Award-winning hit by Harvey Fierstein (book) and Cyndi Lauper (music and lyrics) filled with high heels and high camp with a cast that is nothing short of delicious. (Odd description in a review, but one that seems so appropriate.) And beyond all the glitz and splash that the musical provides, there are wonderful messages in the story of perseverance, of being true to oneself in spite of difficult odds, and a very powerful dose of acceptance in a world of outward differences.
Inspired by real events and a movie of the same title, the uplifting story is set in the English industrial town of Northampton, England where Charlie Price (Graham Scott Fleming) reluctantly inherits his family owned business, a factory that makes men's high-end shoes. Faced with declining sales and potential layoffs, Charlie must come up with a new plan for niche market footwear.
He finds what he is looking for when meeting Lola (Kyle Taylor Parker), a buxom drag queen, who suggests that he makes sturdy and glitzy boots for his stage "girls." They form an unlikely partnership that brings the world of manufacturing face to face with the stage of drag shows that feature well chiseled male bodies dressed as outrageously beautiful women. (Trust me, you won't believe that these sexually flamboyant women are actually men. They are gorgeous.)
With Fierstein's wit in the story and Lauper's 1980s "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" type melodic tunes and somber ballads, the energetic cast creates a wonderful evening of entertainment that is contemporary, vibrant and unlike any other musical you've experienced.
There are wonderful sub plots that include Charlie's uptight fiancée, Nicola (Ashley North) who doesn't share his enthusiasm for kinky boots, Lauren (Maggie McDowell) an assembly line worker, who has an insatiable crush on Charlie, and Don (Joe Coots) a regular guy's kind of guy who can't quite accept the drag queen world that Lola lives in.
Fleming is brilliant as the conflicted Charlie, who doesn't want to be a part of his fiancée's city life in London and isn't quite sure how to deal with his new business partner. Fleming wonderfully portrays Charlie's vulnerability, hidden drive to succeed, and ultimate journey to boldly accept those things that make us different. He's the soulful underdog that audiences want to cheer for.
Parker, who has played Lola on Broadway, is engaging, electric and exciting in a role that requires him to be the ultimate showgirl adorned in glitter or the sultry balladeer in an evening gown while portraying his previous journey as a man in a very macho upbringing. Lola is a firecracker of a lady (man?) who will quickly tell you the difference between a transvestite and a drag queen, or what type of personality each color of the rainbow represents. With his strong stage presence, pointed one liners, powerful vocals, and ability to strut better than any women I know, you forget whether he is a man or woman and appreciate the actor simply as an outstanding performer. His reflective musical number, I'm Not My Father's Son, leaves one of the most powerful moments in the entire show.
McDowell captures one of the funniest numbers in her rendition of The History of Wrong Guys, a recap of failed relationships with men. She's a comic genius in a number that entertains. Coots makes the most of his regular guy character giving him an array of comic moments and life changing revelations.
And I can't say enough positive things about the ensemble of factory workers and drag queens. They are an extremely talented group of individuals who make the ensemble numbers shine. Favorites include Sex is in the Heel, which will forever give you a new way of looking at shoes, and Everybody Say Yeah, a frenetic number with rollicking vocals done while performing perfectly synchronized acrobatic choreography on a conveyor belt. (You must see it to believe it.) It must have taken many hours of rehearsal to perfect the intricate timing that the scene requires.
Costume design by Gregg Barnes and wig design by John Marquette create the glitz, glamor, and sparkle that dazzles the stage while Richard Latta's lighting design explodes when Lola and her girls take the stage.
Original scenic design by David Rockwell is a masterpiece whether in the confines of the brick lined shoe factory or the drag queen performance venues.
Director/Choreographer, Nathan Peck, has created a wildly entertaining show that brings out the best elements of musical theater while not neglecting the important messages that drive the story.
Ogunquit Playhouse continues to be a theatrical gem on the Maine scene proven by their undertaking of a not often produced show like Kinky Boots in a six-week run that extends into October. It is more than just summer theater in its 87th year of producing shows on the Ogunquit stage. We are fortunate to have this treasure in our own backyard.