Kinky Boots is a fabulous feel-good musical

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Kinky Boots | Broadway Across Canada | Queen Elizabeth Theatre | February 7 – 12, 2017

Drag queens, Cyndi Lauper tunes, and sequins galore. How can one go wrong? Kinky Boots is a musical about acceptance, following your heart, and feeling fabulous in your own skin.

Charlie Price (Curt Hansen) is the classic hero who is pulled back to his small tow to save the family shoe factory, Price & Sons, after his father passes away. He is eager to get back to London to be with his fiancé Nicola (Katerina Papacostas), but soon gets involved in the daily running of the company and trying to save it from bankruptcy.

While the plot had a bit of a slow start, it’s when Charlie meets Lola (J. Harrison Ghee), a drag queen performing at a London pub, that things start to get interesting. As Lola talks about her overpriced boots that don’t last through many performances, Charlie gets the idea that maybe Price & Sons could tap into that niche market to save their factory.

The idea to make boots for drag queens is not received well by all the factory workers in Northampton, especially Don (Aaron Walpole), who is very uncomfortable with the idea and thinks that Lola is not a “real man.” One of the best songs “What a Woman Wants” has the female workers explaining why Lola is closer to their ideal man than someone like Don. To try to settle their dispute, Lola suggests that she will one thing that Don chooses if Don does one thing that she chooses. Don challenges Lola to a boxing match, not knowing that Lola actually trained as a boxer all throughout childhood. Not wanting to humiliate him in front of his friends, Lola lets Don win. Her challenge to him forms the main thematic message of the musical: “accept someone for who they are.”

Although much of the plot is predictable and there are the usual obstacles for Charlie to overcome such as choosing between his fiancée Nicola and their new life in London or his new love interest, Lauren (Rose Hemingway), and a life at the factory. Lauren was a very likable character with her awkwardness and humility as she tries to help Charlie while falling in love with him.

Brilliant choreography, dazzling drag queens, and a very cool conveyor belt scene make up for the predictability. There was only one moment in the show when sympathy for Charlie wore thin. He takes things too far and brutally insults Lola and her girls when he finds out that she plans to use them as the models for their fashion show in Milan. As he sings “Soul of a Man” in his sorry-for-himself scene, it was hard to feel any sympathy when he had just been so mean to someone who had helped him so much.

Charlie does apologize to Lola and the finale brings us back to the feel-good vibes of “Raise You Up/Just Be” where the whole cast wears the kinky boots on the runway. Along with the soulful sounds of Cyndi Lauper, Lola’s amazing voice, and her team of amazing dancing “Angels,” the feel-good message of accepting yourself and others for who they are makes Kinky Boots a hugely uplifting story. 

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