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May 5, 2016 Comments Off on “Kinky Boots” Is Back…It’s Still A Lot Of Fun Views: 3227 *Seattle Theaterland, *The Strangeways Report, Arts & Entertainment, Reviews, Stage

“Kinky Boots” Is Back…It’s Still A Lot Of Fun

Adam Kaplan in the National Tour of Kinky Boots. Photo by Matthew Murphy

Adam Kaplan in the National Tour of Kinky Boots.
Photo by Matthew Murphy

The national tour of the Tony Award winning musical KINKY BOOTS is currently paying a return visit to Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre. The show was last here back in October of 2014 and I gave the show a fairy strong review. Kinky Boots is a lightweight but very enjoyable musical with some terrific songs written by Cyndi Lauper. The book/story is a bit meh and it’s still annoying that the gay characters aren’t allowed to have romances, or much depth. The show works primarily due to the songs, fun production numbers, those ridiculous boots, and the charm of the characters/actors playing them. Since that is the case, I’m just basically copying my review from a year and a half ago…with subtle changes.

Oh, and I will also say that I think the current leads are fantastic. J. Harrison Ghee as Lola gives a brilliant performance as Lola which improves over the previous actor in the 2014 tour. And, Adam Kaplan as Charlie, the other lead, is ridiculously adorable but vocally, not as strong as his 2014 counterpart…he is, however, total imaginary boyfriend material. But, for age appropriate fantasies/actor crushes; alas, I’m far too old and avuncular to have such thoughts.

Sob.

My slightly altered review:

Review: Kinky Boots by Harvey Fierstein. Music & Lyrics by Cyndi Lauper. Based on the film of the same name written by Geoff Deane and Tim Firth. Directed and Choreographed by Jerry Mitchell. With J. Harrison Ghee, Adam Kaplan, Tiffany Engen. Now through May 8, 2016 at The 5th Avenue Theatre.

It shocked many when it snatched the Tony Award for Best Musical over Matilda: The Musical two years ago but the Cyndi Lauper composed/Harvey Fierstein adaptation of the very minor British film of the same name quickly won over the musical theater world…or, at least younger audiences who enjoy a light hearted, gay musical romp. KINKY BOOTS is not a deep or meaningful show. It’s not sophisticated in any sense of the word. The plot is basic and slight….young British man inherits his father’s failing shoe factory and desperate to keep his workers employed decides to make and market outrageous shoes and boots to the drag queen/trans/fetish market with the help of a saucy, outrageous drag queen. Both the shoe man and the queen grow to accept themselves and overcome “daddy” issues; shoe man is straight and gets “the girl” while the queen gets ….the best numbers, the best costumes and absolutely no love interest. It’s all held together by perky pop tunes, some smart design choices, clever choreography by director Jerry Mitchell and just enough cheeky camp and cheesy schmaltz to keep the night entertaining. It’s a solid piece of pleasant musical fun.

The cardboard characters have just enough quirky heart to keep them engaging and mostly endearing. The performances are strong as well, especially from leads Steven Booth Adam Kaplan as Charlie, the young shoe factory owner and Kyle Taylor Parker J. Harrison Ghee as the wise queen, Lola. Their story and relationship is the heart of Kinky Boots and frankly, that’s how this show/plot would have been improved; these two should have become the romantic pair/leads of the story. Instead, we get Charlie paired up with greedy yuppie girl, then successfully paired up with “nice girl” (a charming performance by Lindsay Nicole Chambers Tiffany Engen)who works in the factory. Meanwhile, Lola gets no romantic lead or plot line. It’s a missed opportunity from out gay playwright/librettist Harvey Fierstein, in my opinion.

As already mentioned, the show has cute choreography from its out gay director, Jerry Mitchell and he knows how to showcase the charms and talents of his primary dancers, “The Angels”,  the six man/queen troupe of back-up dancers for Lola. Sadly, none of the Angels get any character development or act as anything other than back up adornment; they’re the equivalent of dancing mannequins.  In the old days of musical construction, you had your primary story line/romance then your B story/romance and usually even a C story/romance. Or, even two A stories (ala Guys & Dolls). Modern musicals cheese out on that in general and frankly it weakens most shows, this one included. Despite its alleged gay credentials and gay/allied creators (Fierstein, Mitchell & Cyndi Lauper) Kinky Boots never really gets very kinky, or that gay. We have  Charlie’s two romances, one bad and one good and Lola’s fight to be accepted as the other rather dated through line and…nothing else. The show could have also benefited from beefing up the secondary characters, especially the queer ones.

Despite all this carping about the show’s lack of queer content/expression and a rather bland plot, it is a fun show. Ms Lauper’s written a handful of fun songs that are well-staged/choreographed by Mr. Mitchell. “Sex is in the Heel”, “Everybody Say Yeah” and the finale number “Raise You Up/Just Be” are toe tappingly engaging.

Who’s this for?

Folks looking for a pleasant evening of musical theater entertainment devoid of anything too deep. Despite the “gay” content, this show is very family friendly….despite the title, Kinky Boots is safe enough for Grandma and the Deacon’s Sunday Brunch Committee from Grandma’s church.

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