You Don’t Have To Be Kinky To Enjoy “Kinky Boots!”

Kinky Boots, playing until this February 8th at the Lauderhill Performing Arts Center courtesy of Prather Production’s Broadway in Broward series, isin many respects a fairly typicalmusical comedy: one in which a plucky underdog fights for a noble cause amidst an array of colorful characters.

Our protagonist, Charlie, is a young man whose father’s sudden death leaves him in charge of the family’s struggling shoe factory. He’s on the brink of closing Price and Son’s doors for good when things take a turn for the fabulous as a chance meeting with the glamorous drag queen Lola inspires Charlie to break into “an underserved niche market” by developing a women’s shoe strong enough to support a man’s weight. Thus, the titular “kinky boots” are born!

Kinky Boots is based on a little-known British film that is, weirdly enough, loosely based on a true story. The show’s music and lyrics were written by 80’s sensation Cyndi Lauper, who obviously still knows how to have fun. Her catchy pop-inspired showtunes are nothing if not enjoyable, and you’ll probably leave the theatre humming quite a few of them!

Meanwhile, the serviceable book (if anyone reading this doesn’t speak musical, the term “book” refers to the non-sung portion of a musical’s script) was written by Harvey Firestein, who is also known for writing the book of the similarly flamboyant La Cage Aux Folles and originating the role of Edna Turnblad in Hairspray.

There’s not too much iconoclastic about the show’s themes and storyline, in which the necessity of collaborating on shoe-making forces more conservative characters to learn to accept Lola’s unconventionality while Charlie and Lola learn to be truer to themselves.

However, if Kinky Boots is a show that leans towards formulaic silliness, it’s all mighty good-hearted, good-sounding, and good-looking formulaic silliness. The show was visually stunning throughout, thanks in no small part to fantastic set and the ever-changing outfits of Lola and her posse of fellow drag queen “Angels.”

As we learned in my recent review of Evita, a well-designed spectacle can be quite spectacular, and I’d much rather see my extravagant outfits donned by drag queens than by dictators! John P. White provided some stellar costumes, though the highlight, of course, was the show’s namesake boots, which provide quite the memorable sight gag when donned by some unexpected characters in the show’s finale.

Though Charlie spends most of the story playing the straight man to Lola’s extravagance, actor Luke Yellin still projects a winning charisma and gets the chance to rise to occasional rock star heights in numbers like Soul Of A Man. Yet the show’s true standouts were Payton Reilly as Lauren, who delivered her singular solo “History of Wrong Guys” with an expert comedic sensibility and a voice to rival any mainstream pop star’s, and David Lamarr as Lola, who nails both the character’s larger than life persona and their more vulnerable out of drag moments.

However, it may be worth noting that the only romances that are represented in Kinky Boots are heterosexual ones, and that even the seemingly flaming drag queen Lola eventually expresses their attraction to women. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with a straight cross-dresser; it’s more that I question the lack of any demonstrably gay characters in a show obviously written to appeal to a gay audience.

Kinky Boots played on Broadway from 2012 to 2019 and took home several Tony Awards in the meantime, including one for Best Musical. This, and the continual success of other musicals featuring prominent characters whose self-presentation stretches gender norms,suggest that cross-dressing is now mainstream enough to not put off the touristy masses, which is absolutely grand. Maybe a song from Monty Python’s Spamalot, which suggests that “You Won’t Succeed On Broadway” if you don’t have any Jews should instead assert that you won’t succeed on Broadway if you don’t have any drag queens!

Published by ilanaintheatreland

One lifelong theatre lover's informed and quirky reflections on theatre across South Florida! Feel free to email me at irothman@gm.slc.edu with any

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