Kinky Boots

by Les Spindle

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Friday November 14, 2014

The touring cast of 'Kinky Boots'
The touring cast of 'Kinky Boots'  (Source:Matthew Murphy)

In the tradition of "The Full Monty," which parlayed a hit British film into an acclaimed and popular Broadway musical, "Kinky Boots" is the crowd-pleasing frolic that triumphed at last year's Tony Awards, acing six wins including Best Musical.

Unlike "Monty," which fully Americanized its story en route to the musical stage, "Kinky Boots" remains as British as Yorkshire pudding, while rocking to the beat of the Great White Way.

The sprightly adaptation is by two pedigreed talents: book writer Harvey Fierstein and composer-lyricist Cyndi Lauper, both Tony victors for their efforts. The celebrated show makes its LA bow in a first-rate national touring edition, in which Broadway's director-choreographer Jerry Mitchell recreates his staging.

Blending campy humor, heart, and Lauper's jaunty 1970s-flavored score, "Kinky Boots" offers a gently subversive nod to sexual and social diversity. It's certainly less groundbreaking than was Fierstein's 1983 "La Cage Aux Folles," yet it feels very much in tune with current global advances in gay rights, and tolerance.

Fierstein's entertaining book hits all the right notes in spinning a heartwarming story, as humorous complications ultimately lead to a touching portrait of non-conformity and self-expression.

Lead character Charlie Price (a captivating and empathetic Steven Booth) has inherited his late father's Northampton shoe business. He reluctantly returns there from London, leaving his fiancée Nicola (Grace Stockdale) there, as he tries to figure out how me might salvage the faltering operation.

Charlie meets Simon Jr., aka Lola (radiant Kyle Taylor Parker in the role that earned Billy Porter a Tony), a cross-dress performer. Charlie performs a heroic act: rescuing this damsel in distress from some bigoted street thugs. Simon's high-heel gets broken amid the melee, and Charlie offers to repair it. As they go to the drag club where Lola performs, Charlie gets a crash course in the world of drag queens.

Impressed by the stylish high-heeled boots worn by the performers, Charlie has an epiphany. Perhaps making kinky boots for the local drag queens is just what is needed to jumpstart his flailing business, in cooperation with Simon/Lola. But tensions surface from Charlie's employee Don (Joe Coots) and other narrow-minded individuals, who are turned off by Charlie's self-expressive new business associate.

As Simon/Lola begins designing a chic new line of boots, he strives to save Charlie's shoe factory while simultaneously hoping to prove his worth to his disapproving father (Horace V. Rogers). During this journey, Charlie and Simon form a tight bond of friendship.

When Charlie promotes an employee, Lauren (the superb Lindsay Nicole Chambers), this creates possible added emotional distance between him and Nicola. Will true love triumph in the end?

The story relies on easygoing humor mixed with occasional rueful moments, en route to a predictably joyous conclusion and a showstopping finale, "Raise You Up/Just Be," featuring the entire ensemble. Along the way, the musical sails along jubilantly, infused with captivating performances and Mitchell's array of vibrant production numbers. Occasional reflective songs, such as Chambers' showstopping "The History of Wrong Guys" provide a welcome balance. Booth has his chance at a fine heartrending ballad with "Soul of a Man."

At times, the narrative seems to take a back seat to Mitchell's abundance of ebullient production numbers and the glorious razzle-dazzle of David Rockwell's handsome scenic design, Gregg Barnes' resplendent costumes, and Kenneth Posner's superb lighting. Stephen Oremus' music supervision, orchestrations and arrangements are likewise superb.

This "Boots" was made for dancing, along with an abundance of singing and mirth, mixed with an ample helping of social conscience. A bonafide crowd pleaser, the show skillfully melds the talents of Lauer, Fierstein, Mitchell and a superb cast and design team into a tasty soufflé.

"Kinky Boots" runs through Nov. 30 at Pantages Theatre, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. For information or tickets, call 800-382-2787, or visit www.ticketmaster.com