These “Kinky Boots” Are Made for Dancing

A drag diva saves the day for a struggling British shoe factory in “Kinky Boots,” which recently closed at the Arsht Center, but comes to Broward in March. Credit: Matt Murphy

For some reason, whenever I think about “Kinky Boots,” Nancy Sinatra’s sassy ‘60s hit, “These Boots Are Made for Walking,” comes to mind, except, the shiny, sparkly, stiletto boots in the hit musical are also made for running, dancing, voguing and more.

The Tony Award winner for Best Musical made a stop last week at Miami’s Arsht Center and showed audiences exactly why Cyndi Lauper and Harvey Fierstein’s show took Broadway’s top honor in 2013. South Florida audiences will get another chance to catch the lively singing and dancing when the show stops at the Broward Center in Fort Lauderdale, March 1 – 13.

Based on a 2005 movie, the show stars Adam Kaplan as Charlie Price, a young man who struggles to live up to the expectations of his father to continue the family business, a third-generation men’s shoe factory in Northampton.

Charlie is not much interested in the shoe business, preferring to live in London with his materialistic girlfriend (Charissa Hogeland). But, when his father dies suddenly, Charlie realizes just how dire the situation is at the factory, but cannot bring himself to lay off the employees, many of them childhood friends.

After a chance encounter with drag queen Lola (J. Harrison Ghee), he is inspired to save the factory by manufacturing quality footwear for other female impersonators, kinky boots.

Fierstein’s book is uplifting, forcing both Charlie and Lola (Simon) to confront the ghosts of their fathers (Lola’s father is broken and unresponsive, committed to a nursing home). There are also issues of identity and bullying that rear their ugly heads as workers at the factory ruthlessly taunt their savior and even Charlie struggles to accept the assistance of Lola and her friends.

Along the way, Charlie attracts the affections of factory worker Lauren (Tiffany Engen), but make no mistakes, the best female parts in the show are reserved for men.

Kaplan’s Charlie is likeable, even during the darkest moments of his relationship with Lola/Simon, but it is Ghee—thanks to a colorful character—who delivers an electric performance, accentuating the differences between the flamboyant drag queens and the dull factory workers.

Pop diva Lauper’s score is tuneful, in fact, best during the disco-infused choruses and accompanied by frenetic choreography by Jerry Mitchell, although none of the individual songs are particularly memorable. “Sex Is In the Heel,” “Everybody Say Yeah” and “Raise You Up/Just Be” are among the high-energy numbers that had the Arsht Center audience dancing in their seats.

As should be expected, Gregg Barnes’ costumes accentuate the social and cultural divides from smudged factory smocks to fabulous footwear. Any show with drag queens—think “Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert”—is going to require over the top, campy clothes and Barnes never disappoints.

Despite its occasional shortcomings, the energy and spirit of the show propelled “Kinky Boots” ahead of “Matilda,” the dark British musical based on a novel by Roald Dahl (“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”), but it’s hard to imagine the show sweeping the Tony Awards in 2015 or even 2016. It’s still an entertaining night of theater that will be equally well received by audiences at the Broward Center in the new year.


Like us on Facebook

  • Latest Comments

BLOG COMMENTS POWERED BY DISQUS