BWW Review: KINKY BOOTS at Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall
You know it's going to be an intriguing show when the first line delivered is "Ladies, Gentlemen and all those who have yet to decide"!
The award-winning Broadway musical Kinky Boots boasts music and lyrics pairing the talents of Cyndi Lauper and Harvey Fierstein. The musical is based on the 2005 British film of the same name. Some may not know that Kinky Boots obtained its inspiration from the true story of English shoe manufacturer Steve Pateman who found himself desperately trying to save his family's failing shoe factory. His designs morphed from standard men's footwear to a more fetish-oriented style, branded Divine Footwear.
Taking the flair of theatrical license, the musical replicates the storyline and introduces us to Charlie Price (Curt Hansen) and the fictitious Price & Sons shoe factory based in Northampton. Charlie is torn between staying in mundane Northampton and helping his father run the declining factory or moving to trendy London to pursue a career in real estate with his ever-nagging, upwardly mobile girlfriend Nicola (Katerina Papacostas). Although his father was counting on him managing the factory, when Charlie decides to make the move to London, his father offers his blessings. It's not long afterwards that Charlie receives the news of his father's death. Assuming the responsibility of his inheritance and the future of the workers he has known all of his life, he returns to Northampton and contemplates closing the factory.
A brief encounter with drag queen Lola (Timothy Ware) motivates Charlie to think outside the shoe to create sturdy but glamorous boots for a whole new market of clients. Charlie asks Lola to partner with him to save the factory by preparing new designs for a crucial fashion show in Milan. Lola's comedic asides directed to the audience are funny and often very poignant. Let the good times roll when Lola and her drag dancers, the Angels, show up at the factory and clash with the rather staunch and conservative factory workers. Act One unfolds a big number for Lola in the touching, Not My Father's Son, and Mr. Ware was brilliant.
The factory workers are not happy about the proposition of their new product line and Don (Aaron Wapole), the company's burley foreman especially makes Lola feel unwelcomed. Lola challenges him by engaging the help of the ladies in the factory to prove that she is closer to a woman's ideal man than Don. Lola further challenges Don to a bet to see who is the better "man", by agreeing to do one thing that Don requests if Don will do one thing that Lola requests. Don's challenge is for Lola to box with him, unknowing she is a trained boxer. During the fight song, In This Corner, we are treated to a cleverly choreographed slow motion fight scene. In the end Lola lets Don win. When he privately asks why, Lola replies she didn't want to humiliate him in front of his coworkers. She then challenges him to accept someone for who they are. We start to see friendships like this grow throughout the factory. Even shop worker Lauren (Rose Hemingway) comes to terms with her crush on Charlie via her The History of Wrong Guys. In Charlie's big number, Soul of a Man, Curt Hansen delivers a moving performance. We must make mention about how well the actors handled the very intricate moving conveyor-belt choreography which is one of the highlights of the show.
Kinky Boots challenges all of us to accept each other for who they are and in the musical when they all come together for the better good, their designs at the Milan show are a hit, the factory is saved and the jobs of the workers are restored.
This is a feel good spectacle of understanding and acceptance and the sold out crowd at the Van Wezel were generous in their applause and standing ovations and the cast was gracious in showing their love in return.
Kinky Boots runs through April 27, 2017. For more information visit www.vanwezel.org.