Based on the 2005 film of the same title, Kinky Boots is an ideally suited vehicle for a musical. If you read my reviews with any regularity, you will know I infrequently feel that way. Charlie Price, the beguiling Stark Sands, must return home to Northampton, England upon his father’s death to take over the management of the family’s struggling shoe factory. While out one evening he intercedes as a drag queen, Lola, played with scenery-chewing sass by Billy Porter, is being preyed upon by hooligans. Thus begins a most improbable relationship that will change the course of both men’s lives. Lola joins Charlie as a designer at his shoe factory. They are launching a line of “kinky boots” that will enable drag queens to buy high-quality shoes that will support their additional weight.
This cast isn’t your usual run-of-the-mill pretty chorines. This is a gritty bunch that truly represents the spectrum of the real world. Because of this, this cast feels approachable and more real (probably the only good thing about this season’s Hands on a Hard Body).
The first character we are introduced to is the machismo factory worker Don, played with grit and attitude by David Stewart Sherman. Sherman has perhaps one of the most clever “turn off your phone, no photos, no texting, etc.” curtain speeches seen on Broadway in a while. As the bouncy and slightly goofy factory worker, Lauren, Annaleigh Ashford is funny and charming as she belts out Lauper’s “The History of Wrong Guys,” as she pines for Charlie.
As Charlie’s fiancé Nicola, Celina Carvajal does a terrific job in a rather thankless role. Neville Marcus gives us the stuffy but loveable factory manager, George, Charlie’s right-hand man.
Standing out among the design elements, Gregg Barnes’ costumes are colorful and delicious and his “kinky boots” are outrageous. Scenic designer David Rockwell gives us a fairly simple set, primarily the factory and its conveyor belts which Mr. Mitchell uses to great effect during the act one finale, “Everybody Say Yeah.”
Kinky Boots may not be a perfect musical, but it is a fun one with lots to recommend it: Ms. Lauper’s score; a cast that you will connect with; and perhaps most important of all, a huge heart.