Theatre Review: Kinky Boots

Kinky Boots
Book by Harvey Fierstein
Music and lyrics by Cyndi Lauper
Directed and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell
Northern Jubilee Auditorium
Now until February 19
Tickets: Starting at $30 (available here)


Fusing a feel-good story with glittering Broadway numbers, Kinky Boots will appeal to theatre-goers of all kinds.

Opening to rave reviews in Chicago in 2012, Kinky Boots quickly found its audience and moved to Broadway. The show swept the 2013 Tony’s with 13 nominations and 6 wins, including Best Musical and Best Score. Kinky Boots, after nearly five years on the stage, is a well-oiled machine – they know how to get audiences on their feet, and this production was no exception.

This musical tells the story of Charlie Price, heir to the failing Price & Sons shoe factory. Enter Lola, a drag queen in need of a pair of heels that won’t break. What follows is a story of friendship, acceptance and perseverance that is both a glitzy, upbeat Broadway marvel and a warm-hearted working class tale, where love and hard work can rescue the family business, and acceptance always conquers prejudice.

While act one got off to a slow start, once the fabulous drag queen Lola (J. Harrison Ghee) bursts onstage, the show is transformed from typical bourgeois tale about the ailing family business, to a glittering, glamourous show soaked in sex, gender fluidity and impossibly high heels. Ghee steals the show in each scene, leaving the other performers in the dust. Charlie Price (Curt Hansen) comes off as a bland hero with petty problems, but the Angels (Lola’s cross-dressing back up dancers) carry the show to intermission with their acrobatic choreography and perfect harmonies.

Act two moves more quickly, racing through the central conflict of the show: Charlie and his factory workers are preparing for a fashion show in Milan, with Lola as the designer, but personalities and ideologies clash. Charlie’s character is even more difficult to sympathize with as he mistreats his workers and calls Lola names. Charlie’s big song, “Soul of a Man” sounds like a whiney trust fund brat’s diary next to Lola’s soulful “Hold Me in Your Heart,” performed in a stunning Whitney Houston style dress. Lola is a complex character with an authentic relationship to her father, and Ghee plays the role with tenderness and emotional clarity.

I had high expectations going in – Billy Porter won the Tony for Best Actor in a Musical for playing Lola in 2013, but Ghee stepped into the red stiletto boots perfectly, with soaring vocals and perfectly timed physical comedy, making the demanding choreography seem effortless.

The ending of the show is warm and cheesy in the best way. The final song (“Raise You Up/Just Be”) is a rousing number about self-love and acceptance, prompting a brief encore of the song, as the audience rose to their feet.

Overall, Kinky Boots is a glittery, playful Broadway show that, at its core, tells a timely and heart-felt story about being yourself and finding value in differences.