BWW Review: KINKY BOOTS on the Norwegian Encore is a Broadway Caliber Show
Norwegian Cruise Line just debuted the Norwegian Encore in Miami, as a part of its Breakaway Plus-class line of ships. In addition to multiple restaurants, bars, lounges, and entertainment venues, the Encore also stages a production of the Tony-winning musical Kinky Boots.
Most people board a cruise ship expecting to be entertained, but not expecting a Broadway-caliber production; however, that is what you get aboard the Norwegian Encore. Their production of Kinky Boots felt less like a cruise ship show and more like attending the National Tour of Kinky Boots at your local performing arts center.
I saw Kinky Boots on Broadway, and I was not expecting the version on the Encore to have the same quality for the sets as the original production, but I was truly blown away by how well they delivered onboard.
Most musicals aboard a cruise ship have to be cut down for time, resulting in productions that don't feel as legitimate as seeing a show on Broadway or during a National Tour; however, Norwegian was able to cut down Kinky Boots in a way that held up the original integrity of the show. They cut out very little that an audience member who's seen the show could notice. The main cut was in the first song, "The Most Beautiful Thing," where they removed the scenes with the child versions of the main characters Lola and Charlie, which was an understandable choice since having child actors on a cruise ship does not seem too sustainable. Otherwise, I did not notice any other substantial cuts to the show, which was very impressive since they were able to cut the show down to ninety minutes with no intermission.
Not only was I impressed by the technical and physical aspects of the production, I was also incredibly impressed by the cast. Every member of the production brought the level of talent, comedic timing, and emotion that makes Kinky Boots such a special show.
Alan Mingo Jr. stars in the production as the iconic Lola. Mingo Jr. actually was a replacement for Lola in the original Broadway cast of Kinky Boots. His talent is evident from the moment he comes on stage. Mingo Jr. brings the sass in songs like "Land of Lola" and "Sex is in the Heel," but its his voice and emotion in songs like "Not My Father's Son" and "Hold Me In Your Heart" that really shine through. Mingo Jr. is able to not only bring the fun and humor of Lola, but also the deep emotion of a character with many layers.
Charlie Price was played by Jonathan Carlton, who understudied the role on the West End. Carlton is a perfect Charlie, possessing the charming and slightly awkward persona of the character. Not only does he fit the role as an actor, his voice lends perfectly to the songs, with "The Soul of a Man," being one of his stand outs of the performance.
Carlton and Mingo Jr. have great chemistry as Charlie and Lola, adding another layer of depth to the performance. Their voices complement each other well during their duets, and they are able to work off of each other to heighten the comedic moments of the script.
Rosie Needham, who plays Lauren, really delivered and was a standout performer in the show. Lauren is one of my favorite roles to watch, and I am so glad that Needham succeeded in setting the bar high for that character. Her performance of "The History of Wrong Guys" was received with an abundance of laughter by the audience, and Needham was able to put her own personal spin on the number made famous by Annaleigh Ashford.
It wasn't just the leads who exceeded my expectations, though, the entire show's cast performed exceptionally and truly made me feel like I was seeing a National Tour production, and not sitting in the middle of the ocean watching a cruise ship show. From the performers, to the set, and the production quality, Kinky Boots on the Norwegian Encore proves that Norwegian has the answer to making cruise ship shows feel less gimmicky and more legitimate. I've seen many musicals abroad a cruise ship before, but not until I saw one on Norwegian did I feel like I was seeing the highest quality production possible. I can't wait to travel with them again and see another show!