Kinky Boots is a certifiable hit. This show, with book by Harvey Fierstein and music and lyrics by Cyndi Lauper blows the doors off the Hirschfeld Theater. The show is filled with the type of energy and flash that is quintessentially Broadway. Jerry Mitchell's direction and choreography add to the overall impact of the book and music.
A shoe factory in England in the reluctant hands of the dead founder's sonm and a drag queen and "her" performing troop from a London club are the emotional core. It is at once a story of coming to grips with a sense of self for the two leads as it is a story of understanding of differences for the community in which the story is played out.
Stark Sands magnificently brings Charlie Price, the son of a shoe factory owner in England, to life with all the of confusion and vulnerability expected from a 20-something man forced to become the director of a shoe factory on the death of his father, Mr. Price, well played by Stephen Berger. It is the role his father had always envisioned for Charlie.
In contrast to Charlie and his world of privilege is Lola, a drag queen beautifully portrayed in all her glory by Billy Porter. Lola is the son of a former prize fighter, Simon Sr. (Eugene Barry-Hill), who exemplified the cultural ideal of a rugged man, an ideal that was a long way from where Lola wanted to be in "her" life.
Charlie works to save the factory when the world of his father's shoes has changed and a chance encounter with Lola leads to an epiphany of what can be done to save the shoe factory: boots for cross-dressers and drag queens. Boots with the muscle to carry a man but still dazzle with the soul of a woman – Kinky Boots.
Harvey Fierstein has written a book that is faithful to the little-seen British film of the same name but with the twists and wordplay that only Harvey could pull off. Sometimes what he’s wrought is over-wrought, such as the duet between Charlie and Lola, "I'm Not My Father's Son," which goes on too long to show us the psychic wounds caused by the father's.
Cyndi Lauper's music and lyrics form a perfect blend of heartfelt sentiment and romance with the sass and raucous energy needed to bring the clash of the laid-back conservative nature of a factory and the flash and over-the-top world of drag performers to life. There is nearly a seamless flow between the spoken dialogue and the singing dialogue of the story.
Two women figure prominently in Charlie's life, Nicola, well-played by Celina Carvajal, his fiancee with whom he ran away to London to escape the provincial life envisioned by his father; and Lauren, a factory girl at the Price shoe factory, whose character is brilliantly realized by Annaleigh Ashford. Nicola's world is a high-profile one of designer clothing and upward mobility. Lauren is a smart, articulate woman whose world is shaped by the working-class attitudes of the factory town. Nicola stays true to her convictions and the conventions of her world, where Lauren rises above in a thrilling and triumphant expression of spirit and understanding.
The Ensemble players and the drag performers, the Angels, round out the cast to perfection. Each, separately, and together bring a level of energy to the production numbers that moves the show forward with visceral intensity. It is always amazing to see women dance in high-heeled shows, but when men of different sizes not only walk in high-heeled boots but dance in them, it is a marvel to behold.
David Rockwell's scenic design perfectly realizes the shoe factory and the drag club. His design for the factory figures prominently in one of the director and choreographer Jerry Mitchell's production numbers that ingeniously uses assembly-line conveyor belts.
Kenneth Posner's lighting is perfect, and Gregg Barnes' costumes are a sight to behold from the factory-floor workers to the flash and frills of the Angels’ performance outfits.