BWW Review: Everybody Say Yeah! KINKY BOOTS Brings A High Energy Romping Good Time With A Story Of Love And Acceptance At Straz Center
A high flying, high kicking romp of a good time comes full steam ahead back to the Straz Center in Tampa for three days only from May 17-19, 2019. A true story set in North Hampton England just a stones throw from London centers its story around the plight of a burgeoning entrepreneur whom was just bequeathed the family business. Price&Sons is known for their comfortable and dependable classic shoes for men. When sales plummet and stock is filtering back in by the truck load it is up to Charlie the heir to the shoe factory to pull the company back on its struggling feet and restore the name of Price &Sons to its glory. How does one do that you may ask?
After a night out at a local bar, Charlie finds himself befriended by a London Performances artist and her band of Angels with strong lessons, and even stronger heels to boot. Featuring a rousing 16 musical numbers over the course of two and a half hours the cast of thirty feels comfortable in their boots and they seem like old friends getting together for a good time. This high flying rip roaring show came to life jumping off the stage from the very start.An entertaining curtain speech featuring an actor talking on their phone made for a different perspective when talking about the niceties of live theatre.
Tampa-Bay area audiences are familiar with this story and this rendition leaves nothing behind, and brings a fresh take for those whom may have never heard of or seen the show. Mr. Price played by Geoff Davin was strong, steadfast, and reticent in his delivery, he has a powerful singing voice that bellowed through Morsani Hall on Friday night. Nicola played exceptionally well by Ashley North was that woman you loved to love, with an attitude you loved to hate. It was her way or no way, and she commanded the scene every time. From the very first note to the closing bows, the Ensemble was strong through and through. The acapella section of "The Most Beautiful Thing in the World," was stunningly breathtaking and transported the show to new heights. Every vocalist was in-sync with each other and not a flaw was to be had. After the Father's death the vocals took on ethereal quality that was haunting and endearing all at the same time. The set design was exceptional and seemed to move flawlessly about the space. From flying drops to moving conveyor belts everything seemed to mesh seamlessly.
Connor Allston's portrayal of Charlie Price was everything it needed to be. When you think of Kinky Boots you automatically think of Charlie Price and Lola, and Connor's portrayal was fit to a t. His powerful voice that lent exceptionally well to the fine score written by Cyndi Lauper made us rock out at moments, and feel the ache in our hearts the next. With huge shoes to fill coming from following in the footsteps of Stark Sands, Brendon Urie, Jake Shears, and Killian Donnelly to name a few; Connor's portrayal delivered and then some, exceptional kudos goes to Connor for this wonderful performance. Standout moments for Charlie were the beautiful "Soul of a Man," and the rousing "Everybody Say Yeah!"
Lola portrayed by Kenneth Mosely was moving, fierce, and resilient all at the same time. Upon her entrance in "Land of Lola," I was expecting so much. While sometimes characters have to be given a song or two to warm up the audience, in this number my expectations were so high that I was slightly taken a back. Throughout the show my opinion completely changed. Lola is a complex character to portray and a tour de force for any actor willing to take on the challenge. One has to be commanding, resilient, but also have heart and show depth, and be able to move in heels. All of these qualities were shown in Kenneth's portrayal. Following in the footsteps of the incomparable Billy Porter, and the effervescence of Todrick Hall even I would have been shaking in my stilettos. Kenneth held his own and truly showed heart and depth in his portrayal and I loved it. Stand out moments for Lola bar-none were "Not my Fathers Son" and the endearing "Hold Me in Your Heart," in which Lola single handedly sang a heart wrenching ballad reminiscent of Whitney Houston. I was in tears when she hugged her father and said, "I love you" finally standing up to the man whom never accepted her. Kinky Boots is a Broadway-Smash based on a true story and inspired from the 2005 dramatic-comedy film of the same name. Lola's portrayed by Chiwetel Ejiofor and is a complete turn for him if you see this film after watching his tour-de force of 12 Years a Slave. If you have never seen the film, the performances are exceptional, and though its not a musical you get to see the depth in which these characters are built.
Other breakout performances were Lauren portrayed by Karis Gallant who gave me a different layer every time. Like an onion being peeled back she commanded the stage every time she was on. Following the likes of comedic greats such as Leah Remini, Kristin Wig, and Elizabeth Banks she nailed this character. Don played by James Fairchild was the eptiome of a prejudice and backwards town. Not willing to accept anything outside the normal, we loved to hate him and his arc in the story showing how people can change, if they change their mind is something many people should think just by looking in the mirror.
Not a flawed member of this cast, and a rousing score by Cyndi Lauper with a book by Harvey Fierstein shows that Kinky Boots is as strong as the heels the Drag Queens and men dance on. Full of heart, and beautiful lessons that,"if you change your view, you can change your mind!" This show has something for everyone, so if you're not a musical theatre fan, you soon will be upon experience the heart in every characters plight, and this too will make you feel better than when you walked in. Something everyone should see, everyone should come to be familiar with, and a story about accepting those for who they are. When you surround yourself with love then the world as a whole will become a better place for all. In the wonderful words of RuPaul, "If you can't love yourself, how the hell are you going to love somebody else, can I get an Amen!" Fitting in every sense of the word, Kinky Boots is a show for all; so lace up your stilettos and lets get Kinky!
Photo credit: The STRAZ CENTER