BWW Preview: KINKY BOOTS at Saint-Denis Theatre
A Tony-Award winning Broadway musical based on the British film of the same name, Kinky Boots is inspired by the real-life makeover story of the W.J. Brooks Shoe Company; a family business that went from making conservative footwear to...well...kinky boots. Written for stage by the incomparable actor and playwright, Harvey Fierstein, with music and lyrics by the flamboyant '80s pop icon, Cyndi Lauper and direction/choreography by the legendary Jerry Mitchell, Kinky Boots is not only a fun and effervescent contemporary musical, but an important lesson in empathy and acceptance.
Enter onstage meek but likable Charlie Price, who is the reluctant inheritor of his father's flailing small town shoe factory. Charlie, now at a pivotal crossroad, has a chance encounter with Lola, a London drag queen whose high heels are in need of some healing. I'll give you a moment to put two and two together.
Aside from following the coming of age stories and unlikely friendship between Charlie and Lola, audiences get to see the culture clash between Charlie's folksy factory workers and Lola's glitzy drag entourage, known as the Angels. A modern day take on the traditional Greek Chorus, the Angels are a crew of musical theatre triple-threats that could rival any contestant on RuPaul's Drag Race. Vocally, Lola's chorus of Angels are not lip-synching for their lives, but instead these performers need to adjust their brassy and booming bass/baritone and tenor timbres to sound like female pop divas.
Fresh-faced, Jacob Paulson, transforms himself nightly into one such fierce and fishy Angel. The process involves gluing down eyebrows, careful strokes of the makeup brush, elaborate wigs, strategic padding, and contouring his real-life six-pack. Talk about decorating your assets!
Paulson describes the Angels as a burst of energy that appear on the scene, almost magically. "The audience really reacts whenever we enter onstage, and we feed off of their excitement." Jacob's spotlight moment comes in the second act, when this agile dancer serves up some Vegas-style realness as the boxing ring girl. "You can hear the audience murmuring as they realize the girl in the sequin bikini is really a man," Paulson laughs. His astounding signature dance move is the drop split; a talent which he credits getting him cast in the show. Having previously been a featured dancer in Fierstein and Herman's La Cage Aux Folles didn't hurt either, I suppose.
Michigan-born, Jacob Paulson has been travelling the world, performing mostly in lighthearted musicals, on cruise ships, and at Disney theme parks. I imagine going from the cheery Magic Kingdom to touring an edgy show with LGBTQ themes might be a challenge, especially given the Xenophobic climate perpetuated by some narrow-minded politicians. Paulson reassured me that audiences, even in cities and towns where the drag performers were recommended not to venture outside in costume, have been welcoming and appreciative of the production. It comes down to the fact that Kinky Boots is a fun musical with some vital take-home messages of love and acceptance, as quoted by the comical yet heartfelt six step program outlined in the show's finale.
Condragulations to the Kinky Boots North American Tour which will be appearing at Saint-Denis Theatre (1594 St Denis St, Montreal, QC H2X 3K2) on Friday April 26 and Saturday April 27, with shows at 8:00 PM. Tickets range from $74 to $129 and can be purchased online or by calling 514.790.1111 or 1.800.848.1594. (Note that the production is in English.)