Kinky Boots—Why You Need To See It
Back in 2005, my friend Charlotte Tanager took me to the premiere of Kinky Boots in the movie theatre. I remember the British movie fondly and the crowd certainly enjoyed it. Nearly a decade later, Kinky Boots debuted live on Broadway and warmed the hearts of theatre-goers. I saw the show at London’s Adelphi Theatre a year ago and today I am going to see the show as it tours North America.
Without giving too much of the plot away, the story focuses on two young men who lead very different lives but are seeking the same thing: their father’s approval. The musical is based on the true story of a failing shoe factory in central England. When Charlie Price’s father passes away, he must find a way to turn the business around. After a chance meeting with Lola/Simon (a London Drag Queen), Price & Son changes their business model.
Cyndi Lauper (music and lyrics) and Harvey Fierstein (book) worked together on Kinky Boots. Fierstein’s wit and humour shine through beautifully. He ensures that both Simon and Charlie are likeable and relatable. Lauper uses her creative genius to create a playful, diverse yet cohesive score. From disco to touching ballads, 80s rock to soulful acoustic torch songs, the music is varied. Cyndi Lauper would go on to the be the first woman to win the Tony Award for Best Score. Kinky Boots won a total of 6 Tonys as well as 3 Outer Critics Circle Awards, 1 Drama League Award, 1 Drama Desk Award and 3 Laurence Olivier Awards.
The show balances between moments of deep reflection and campy dance numbers. While Simon and Charlie deal with their personal issues, their business partnership continues and changes their colleagues and town. Lola is a larger than life character that brings a lot of colour and attitude to the drab factory in Northampton. Daring choreography and catchy songs run throughout the story ensuring crowds are entertained while forming a deeper bond with two lead characters.
In London, I was seated between a set of grandparents in their mid-70s and a young lesbian couple in their early twenties. It was fascinating watching their reactions to the show as it played out. Some parts shocked. Others received hearty laughs. Both couples were feeling the music. But most importantly, both couples were moved to tears near the end. That didn’t stop either couple from dancing to the finale and clapping along with the orchestra. The show has universal appeal and offers some sweet life lessons.
If the title Kinky Boots concerns you, I promise you have nothing to worry about. This is not 50 Shades of Grey. There will be grown men dancing around in 4 inch heels. The show is fierce, fun and fabulous.
As Charlie’s dad reminds him: "Shoes can protect a man’s journey, but only his heart can choose the path.” Kinky Boots is currently touring North America and is still running in both London and NYC.
*Production photos of the national tour cast of Kinky Boots, photos by Matthew Murphy