'Kinky Boots' rocks Cyndi Lauper and Broadway

stark-sands-billy-porter-kinky-boots.jpg
Does anyone make a better entrance than a drag queen? 

That's rhetorical. 

The drag queen entrances in "Kinky Boots" are fabulous, as well they should be. 

Cyndi Lauper's music is tremendous fun and "Sex is in the Heel" and "Everybody Say Yeah" are showstoppers. By intermission at the Abe Hirschfield Theatre, the audience is cheering.

By the finale, they are on their feet -- and not in a Jay Leno mandatory ovation way -- but in a genuine outpouring of loving what they have seen.

There is something about men well over 6-feet, in all forms of glitter, high-kicking that is fun, if done well. Those of us who have seen bad drag queen acts know that a boa and heels do not a drag queen make.

There must be attitude, which Billy Porter (Broadway's "Miss Saigon" "The Big C") exudes. As Lola he commands the stage, and with a flick of the wrist, delivers lines as if he were the love child of Bette Davis and a dragon.

The musical, with a book by  Harvey Fierstein, is based on the 2005 movie. A small shoe factory, Price and Son, established in 1890, is about to go under, and Charlie ( Stark Sands, "American Idiot" "NYC 22") is the reluctant heir apparent.

Shortly after Charlie moves to London with his fiance, his dad dies and he learns how dire the factory's finances are. If only he could fill a niche market and manufacture a shoe people want.

Charlie chances upon thugs harassing a woman, and defends her. Though she doesn't need much defending, at least not when it comes to fisticuffs. She is actually a he, and a he who happens to be a trained prizefighter. 

stark-sands-annaleigh-ashford-billy-porter-kinky-boots.jpg
Lola is a flamboyant drag queen (does anyone know a staid one?) who, like Charlie, hails from the provinces. You know the moment Lola and Charlie become friends, when her cheaply made but expensive boot heel breaks, where the story is going. No matter, go along for the ride.

Lola and her pals need kinky boots, boots with high heels that can sustain a man's weight. Charlie needs a market. It's a perfect marriage, which is more than one can say for Charlie's planned nuptials. His fiance, Nicola ( Celina Carvajal, "Broadway's "Tarzan") is tightly wound and money hungry, but one of the factory workers, Lauren, is a much better match for Charlie.

Channeling Lauper, Annaleigh Ashford (Broadway's "Wicked" "Nurse Jackie"), as Lauren, belts "The History of Wrong Guys." She enchants the audience, is funny and holds her own with Sands who has a terrific voice.

The play's message, beaten into us repeatedly -- albeit with fathers and sequins -- is one of acceptance. Lola demands it, though it sometimes takes a while to gain it.

It's not completely new material -- stressing that we all accept people for who they are -- but clearly everyone is not paying attention or we would not have protests over equal rights.

But it is a new musical and absolute fun. The scene with drag queens and factory workers on the conveyer belt, and the closing number where everyone struts in kinky boots is choreographer and director Jerry Mitchell's special brand of magic.

The boots alone deserve a Tony. Costume designer Gregg Barnes' thigh-high, lace-up, glittery stiletto heels are outrageous. Singing, while dancing in those kinky boots, and inciting an audience to go crazy is pretty much the most fun way to close a show.
 
 "Kinky Boots" begs the question: does anyone do a better exit than drag queens? 

This answer, too, is rhetorical.
Photo/Video credit: Matthew Murphy
SHARE IT ON: