Dallas — Put on your high-heeled boots and wear your best glittery red outfit (bonus points if they match) for the return of the 2013 Tony award winner for Best Musical Kinky Boots, presented by Dallas Summer Musicals at the Music Hall at Fair Park. Based on the 2005 movie of the same name, the musical (with book by Harvey Fierstein) uses a clash of cultures to show that we have more in common than we do differences.
And it has drag queens, so you know it’s going to be fabulous.
Cyndi Lauper supplied the music and lyrics, winning a Tony for her endeavors, and she’s the first solo woman to have won Best Score. Director and choreographer Jerry Mitchell also snagged a Tony for Best Choreography, so high expectations for the show are not unreasonable.
It opens with a look into the pasts of the two main characters Charlie Price (Curt Hansen) and Lola (Timothy Ware) then transitions into Charlie’s current day reality—the pressure of working the family shoe factory with his fiancé Nicola (Katerina Papacostas) looking to leave behind life in a blue collar town. Opening ensemble numbers show promise, then the production begins to lag right when it should pick up.
Charlie’s father dies, and he’s left to run the business, leaving his London life with Nicola in limbo. In deciding how to handle the factory’s dire financial straits, he has a conversation (in song, of course) with his friend Harry (Dan Tracy). While “Take What You’ve Got” is a great song and features Tracy on guitar, the pair comes across stoic and dull. Later, Charlie meets drag queen Lola in an attempt to ward off hooligans. With her tepid entrance in “Land of Lola,” one has to wonder if this is really the show we were promised.
Fortunately, all kinks (pun intended) seem to have been worked out after that, and the rest of the show is exactly what was promised. Charlie’s encounter with Lola sparks an idea to save the factory, that is creating quality boots for drag queens, and he invites her on as a creative consultant. She overcomes some stereotypical blue-collar prejudices, and everyone learns a thing or two about acceptance in all forms.
Lauper’s music spans a wide range. She channels a bit of her 1980s self with “History of Wrong Guys” and gives an obvious nod to Whitney Houston with “Hold Me in Your Heart.” All upbeat numbers featuring the drag queens carry a distinct disco vibe, and this is one show where all songs work better live. The original cast recording just sounds watered-down compared to the live performance. Instruments get a bit overbearing sometimes, but overall the balance works well.
Mitchell’s staging produces a few gems. The Act I closer “Everybody Say Yeah” includes some delightfully athletic work with conveyor belts, and the boxing scene in slow motion is just beautiful. Of course, the finale will rock your socks off, so I’m not going to spoil that here.
Gregg Barnes’ costume design hits everything in the right spot. The factory workers look accessible and not too stereotyped, while the drag queens ooze the perfect amount of opulence and class. Again, the finale costumes prove a sight to behold.
Music, staging, and costumes can all be great in theory, but it’s the individual performances that make or break their successes. Lola is the obvious main attraction, and Ware slips into her boots like second skin. Spellbinding and classy with the perfect amount of flash, he delivers her lines with such an impeccable timing and range that the audience just hangs off every word.
Lola’s Angels, though, are the real stars of the show. So convincing are they that I had to go back and read the program to see if all of them were really played by men. Indeed they are, and not just any men, but those that look great in midriffs, short shorts, and skirts, and can dance better than some female ensemble members in other musicals. Most notably, Ian Gallagher Fitzgerald high-kicks and lands in splits, while John J. Dempsey rocks it as a sexy referee in the boxing scene of Act II.
Hansen portrays Charlie decently throughout most of it, although his performance doesn’t stand out as much. During times of conflict, he comes across as a pouty young boy.
Parents looking to see if this might be a good show for the little tykes might want to take note of DSM’s content warning, as they recommend this show for ages 12 and up.
The evening proves quite enjoyable, overall. For those looking to kick off spring with a splash, Kinky Boots offers a load of dazzling fun with plenty of sass and laughs.