On Stage: Kinky Boots

The beloved Broadway musical comes to the Kennedy Center Opera House. 

"Kinky Boots" national touring company. (Photo by Matthew Murphy)

“Kinky Boots” national touring company. (Photo by Matthew Murphy)

The Kennedy Center knows what it takes to fill its vast Opera House; and often books popular musical hits that have been hyped and will attract theater-goers who don’t often, if ever, go to the theater. That is where “Kinky Boots” come in. It is an energetic colorful musical that was a Broadway hit and it fills the Opera House with cheering audiences loving the production.

“Kinky Boots” opened on Broadway in 2013 and went on to win six Tony Awards, including Best Musical and Best Score. It had a book by Harvey Fierstein with music and lyrics by his friend Cyndi Lauper. Interestingly, Fierstein’s earlier musical, “La Cage aux Folles” is being staged just across the river in Signature Theatre.

Both productions focus on characters who are female impersonators in drag clubs. La Cage is a tender love story with the wonderful music and lyrics of Jerry Herman.

“Kinky Boots” is the story of Charlie Price (Adam Kaplan) who leaves the family shoe factory business to go off to London with his girlfriend and shortly learns of the unexpected death of his father. He also discovers that the market for the family’s quality shoes for men has collapsed and that the firm is deeply in the red.

He decides to sell the factory to a real estate developer to settle the debts and get back to London. The factory workers who have worked in the factory for generations are concerned about their jobs. The musical is based on a true story, and the director and choreographer Jerry Mitchell has carefully selected his factory employee performers to look like real people of differing sizes and shapes – Only the drag queen Angles look like sleek Broadway performers.

"Kinky Boots" runs at the Kennedy Center through July 10 (Photo by Matthew Murphy)

“Kinky Boots” is at the Kennedy Center through July 10 (Photo by Matthew Murphy)

The Angles are sleek men with legs any woman would envy and it is the drag queen Lola (J. Harrison Ghee), a tall, elegant presence who is well beyond six-foot tall, especially in high heels, who has an idea that can help Charlie save the factory and jobs. Ghee has a plumb role and handles it beautifully.

Lola and Charlie develop an odd friendship. They come from different worlds and backgrounds, but have things in common in that both had complicated relationships with their father. Lola, however, has had a difficult time finding high-heeled sparkly boots and recommends that if Charlie, with his knowledge of man’s shoes, can use that to make boots and shoes for female impersonators, he might find niche that can save the firm.

With a brassy, colorful array of sets and costumes, “Kinky Boots” also hits on the themes of overcoming prejudice and stereotyping. The dialogue is sometimes predictable and corny and never reaches the warm and often humorous script Fierstein created for La Cage.

“Kinky Boots” is, however, a road company show with a large cast with expensive sets and costuming that the Kennedy Center knew would fill the Opera House during its run. Audiences come expecting to love it.

“Kinky Boots” runs through July 10 at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Click here for tickets.   

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *