BY DALE REYNOLDS
Harvey Fierstein and Cyndi Lauper’s new musical, Kinky Boots, is what Broadway is all about…it is a live wire musical full of fun with a cast that truly seems to be enjoying itself.
The musical, loosely based on a true story of how Charlie (Stark Sands) reluctantly becomes head of a shoe factory when his father suddenly dies, starts off a bit slowly but the pace quickly picks up. What he finds out is that it appears as though the prospects of the factory continuing in business may soon rival his father’s fate.
What to do? Close the factory? Put the residents of his small town out of work? Become the town’s most hated man?
Of course not.
Singer/dancer Lola (Billy Porter) bursts onto the scene in a raucous and flamboyant presentation that literally steals the scene and the show. Leading a crew of “Drag Queens,” he explains that transvestites merely dress as the opposite sex while Drag Queens are flamboyant in the role.
And boy does he inhabit the role of Lola bringing down the house.
The book is about as thin as you would expect from a musical…think Cats or Mama Mia, both of which had extended Broadway runs. The score, the dancing and the ability to draw the audiences in to the performances are what sustained these two shows for so many years.
Kinky Boots should be around for a long time to come.
Perhaps the success of the show can be attributed to the fact that four-time Tony Award winner Fierstein, Grammy winner Lauper and director/choreographer, Tony winner Jerry Mitchell combined to create the show.
Charlie runs into Lola at a show and finds that her (his) boots are falling apart because they are made for women and Lola and castmates are all men. The boots simply aren’t sturdy enough. This creates an unlikely collaboration of the button-down collar persona of Charlie and the over-the-top character of Lola.
While Charlie is focused on creating firm and solid footwear for the drag cast, Lola insists on more outrageous designs. That creates conflict between the two. The big push is to have wearable designs in place for the big Milan fashion show.
There is a subliminal message broadcast throughout the show; people can be different as long as they are what they are and that they should be accepted by others on that premise.
Charlie and Lola clash, get together, clash again. There is little suspense as the big show approaches. You know that unless Charlie can score big, his factory is a goner. Unless Lola and the drag crew show up, Charlie’s line of boots is a goner.
When Charlie attempts to walk the runway at the show in the garish hip boots designed by Lola, the results are what you’d expect; he falls, flops and can’t walk in the stiletto heels.
On cue Lola and the drag gang appear on stage, save the show and along the way save the factory, the jobs and convert the thinking of people, including that of Don (Daniel Stewart Sherman), the homophobic, red-neck factory worker.
Don and Lola clash and finally agree that they will do a chore selected by the other. Don challenges Lola to a boxing match, thinking he can easily beat the slight Drag Queen. He is also champ of the local tavern.
What he doesn’t know is that Lola, in his original persona of Simon, was a boxer before giving in to his true feelings. In the ring it appears as though he is going to win the match until he takes a KO punch from Don.
The bully, at the tavern, tells Simon (Lola) that he knows he should have lost and the two strike up a friendship when Lola says he didn’t want to shame him. Don then looks at Lola’s chore, simply “accept people for who they are.” And that is the message of the play.
While there is really no one song that will become a classic or standout single, the entire score comes together beautifully and often has the audience clapping in unison. There wasn’t a vacant seat in the house and that has been the story since it opened in previews.
The show will play Tuesday and Thursday at 7 p.m.; Wednesday and Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.; Thursdays at 7 p.m.; Friday at 8 p.m.; and Sunday at 3 p.m.
Al Hirschfield Theater
302 West 45th Street
Tickets at the box office ($57-$137), online at www.Telecharge.com or call Telecharge at 800-432-7250