Kinky Boots

Book by Harvey Fierstein, music and lyrics by Cyndi Lauper, based on the motion picture by Geoff Deane and Tim Firth
Al Hirschfeld Theatre, New York
From

The cast of Kinky Boots
Stark Sands as Charlie Price and Billy Porter as Lola
Annaleigh Ashford as Lauren and Stark Sands as Charlie Price

Kinky Boots is currently the hottest show on Broadway and must have the most expensive tickets, premium seats costing $449 each, before booking fees.

What you will get for your money is a kind of cross between, say, Billy Elliot and Priscilla Queen of the Desert.

The creative team promises much. The script is adapted from the movie written by Geoff Deane and Tim Firth, the latter famous as progenitor of Calendar Girls.

The stage book has then been created by Broadway legend Harvey Fierstein, with music and lyrics composed by eighties pop star and now Tony winner Cyndi Lauper.

The plot may be predictable but, under the direction of Jerry Mitchell, who also choreographs, it is carried off with panache.

In the opening five minutes, Stark Sands playing Charlie Price inherits the family business, a shoe factory in Northampton (not that you would know it from accents that range between not very convincing and Dick van Dyke).

Unfortunately, the business is on the skids and Charlie’s fiancée is anything but low maintenance. When all seems lost, noble Charlie is (literally) struck lucky when he meets a drag queen, the evening’s star turn and another deserving Tony winner, Billy Porter in the role of Lola (she was a showgirl) or more prosaically Simon from Clacton.

In a trice, a factory manufacturing upmarket men’s shoes has been converted to a production line making the spangly, titular gear for the cross-dressing market.

You can guess the rest, even down to the cute blonde who, supplants the uppity fiancée in the closing moments. Annaleigh Ashford’s Lauren shows admirable determination but sings far better than she imitates an English accent.

Enough of the feelgood plot. That is only part of the attraction of this heady musical hit.

Cyndi Lauper’s music is at its best in a couple of rock anthems delivered with passion by Sands, “Step One” and “Soul of a Man”. Porter gets the more soulful moments, “Hold Me in Your Heart” before the whole cast close the evening memorably delivering “Raise You Up/Just Be”.

It feels as if most of the effort when it comes to choreography has been invested in the drag numbers, which are sensationally performed by a glittery sextet taking their lives into their hands on terrifyingly high heels.

Oddly in such a crowd pleaser, there is a genuine message, which is know thyself and respect others, making Kinky Boots something a little over and above so many popular specimens of this genre.

Quite why the Broadway producers left the action in an unknown industrial town in the English midlands is a mystery. Surely there must be an American equivalent, as was used for the musical version of The Full Monty? However, the explanation might be that if this critic’s efforts are representative, these days all shows are manufactured in the 53rd state—China.

When Miss Lauper sang “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” she can’t have been thinking of the girls at the centre of her musical but they and the audience live up to the mantra in a feelgood show that must surely be London bound before too long.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher