REVIEW: Kinky Boots

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Who knew Cyndi Lauper had THIS in her?

KINKY BOOTS, the Broadway smash, opened this week at the Aronoff Center in downtown Cincinnati and it was with great anticipation that I finally got to see what all the buzz was about.  It’s the story of a struggling shoe factory in England and how a chance encounter between a reluctant cobbler-heir and a drag queen named Lola saves the day.

And more importantly it’s the story of tolerance, acceptance, and finding ones own path.  There are important points made about gender identity as well as a healthy dose of daddy issues — but its also chock full of comedy, warmth, and fabulous wardrobes.

Lauper wrote the score and the lyrics, and I think you’ll be surprised by what you hear.  The music is fantastic.  Harvey Fierstein wrote the book and it takes a minute or two for the show to really find its groove. When it does, though, it’s a fun ride to the grand finale.  The show does not feel preachy in getting its message across, which was one concern I had.

In fact, its far tamer overall than I anticipated.  Yes, there are drag queens glamming it up; but in a less seedy-gay-bar kind of way and more in a made-for-mainstream-television way.  You’ll see what I mean when you go.  Because you should definitely go.

There are lots of reasons why, too.  Besides the overall positives I’ve already mentioned, there standouts in the cast.  First, CCM graduate Josh Tolle is under utilized in his role as “Harry.”  Tolle has a natural stage presence, the ability to connect with the audience, and a superb singing voice.  I would like to see the show when he covers the role of “Charlie.”  I think he’s made for the track and I’m really surprised it took this long for someone to put him on tour.

Also exceptional is Tiffany Engen.  Her solo number, “The History of Wrong Guys” practically steals Act One.  With reckless abandon, she goes for the laugh and nails it with professionalism.  She’s very smart; all great comics are.  I really enjoyed her.

It is a treat to see Jim J. Bullock, an actor who I grew up watching on shows like “Too Close for Comfort,” “Alf,” and “Hollywood Squares” on stage.  Lola’s “Angels” are magnificent.  The dance moves they pull off in heels as impressive as anything I’ve seen lately.  Shawna M. Hamic and Aaron Walpole also stand out in their respective performances.

 

I have some issues with the chemistry between the leads (and between them and the audience) on the night I saw the show but I don’t want to focus on negatives — especially at the beginning of a New Year.  (Though, please, sound techs, turn the volume up just a notch).

I believe this show is worth seeing.  Please go.  I predict you’ll have a great time!

By the way, in one of the cooler things to happen in theatre this week, the cast of the show will volunteer their time tomorrow at Dress for Success, a worthwhile non-profit organization.  If wish I could be there to help cover that story. Hopefully the major media outlets in town will be there to report on something that should be highlighted:  artists giving back to the communities they tour in.

KINKY BOOTS plays through January 17th.  Click here for tickets and more information.