These ‘Kinky’ boots are made for loving

By KATERINA BELALES
CORRESPONDENT
I never thought that a pair of boots would get the biggest entrance applause in a show.
Well, that’s exactly what happened at the performance of “Kinky Boots” at the Bushnell in the Hartford.
I had the pleasure of seeing this amazing musical Tuesday night. Based on the 2005 film “Kinky Boots” by Geoff Deane and Tim Firth, which was inspired by true events, Kinky Boots the musical is a 6-time Tony Award winning musical, including Best Musical and Best Score. With a book by Tony Award winner Harvey Fierstein, and a Tony Award-winning score by pop sensation Cindi Lauper, I knew that I was in for a wonderful, fun night at the theater.
For those not familiar with the storyline, the show is set in Northampton, England. It tells the story of Charlie Price, who inherits a shoe factory from his father that has been in the family for four generations. To save the business, Charlie forms an unlikely partnership with cabaret performer and drag queen, Lola. With Lola’s help, Charlie develops a plan to produce a line of high-heeled boots. In the process, he and Lola discover that they are not so different after all.
Steven Booth was great as Charlie. His acting was superb, and his comedic timing was perfect. However, I was not too fond of his singing voice most of the time. It took me a while to become used to his type of singing voice. At first, I thought it was a bit weak and very raspy. I’m not sure how much vocal training Booth has had, but it didn’t seem like much to me. However, once he performed his big number in Act II, “Soul of a Man,” I completely took back what I said. That one number proved me wrong about his singing voice. His voice was not only strong and powerful, but the scene itself was a powerful moment in the show, and he blew the roof off the theater. 
Additionally, I thoroughly enjoyed Lindsay Nicole Chambers performance of Lauren, a factory worker who becomes Charlie’s main love interest. This character is written as hilarious, quirky, and adorable, and Chambers does a wonderful job at portraying all three of these characteristics. Her big number, “The History of Wrong Guys,” was comedy gold, and it happened to be one of my favorite songs in the show. Her singing voice was absolutely beautiful and spectacular. It hurts her that her big number is in Act I, overshadowed by others’ flashy turns in Act II. However, I certainly remembered and enjoyed her “adorkable” performance. She was definitely the underdog of the show. 
As much as I loved Booth and Chambers’ performances, the highlight of the night was certainly Kyle Taylor Parker, who played the fiercest drag queen I have ever seen, Lola. Parker, who was a member of the original Broadway company of “Kinky Boots,” completely stole the show. Whenever he was on stage, you could not take your eyes off him. He had such a wonderful stage presence. Every song he performed was amazing, including two show stopping numbers from Act I, “Land of Lola” and “Sex Is in the Heel.” However, Lola is not just a flashy role used for show stopping numbers. The audience learns that Lola’s actual name is Simon; his father always wanted him to become a tough wrestler, and was ashamed that he liked wearing high heels and dresses as a child. Parker’s his heartbreaking solo in Act II, “Hold Me in Your Heart,” depicts Lola’s feelings towards her relationship with her father beautifully. These feelings are also depicted earlier on in Act I in a beautiful duet between Lola and Charlie called “Not My Father’s Son.” Both men realize that they are the exact opposite of who their parents want them to be. Overall, Parker portrays Lola wonderfully, and not just as a flashy drag queen. On a lighter note, I have to give him props for wearing and dancing in multiple 8-inch heels for the majority of the show. There are many women in the world that can’t even wear high heels, so I applaud him greatly for that. He was honestly just perfection in this role!
I have to also give props to all the other actors in this show, including Joe Coots as Don, Grace Stockdale as Nicola, Mike Longo as Harry, Florrie Bagel as Pat, and everyone else featured in the ensemble. I could not forget to mention them, as they completed the show. Their vocals were truly outstanding in all of the big production numbers, and they were all full of energy. The opening number, “The Most Beautiful Thing in the World,” and the finale, “Raise You Up/Just Be” clearly proved it. Those were another two of my favorite numbers in the entire show. I’d also like to give a quick shout out to the six men who played Lola’s Angels, who were Lola’s entourage that followed her almost everywhere. Joe Beauregard, Darius Harper, Tommy Martinez, Ricky Shroeder, Juan Torres-Falcon, and Hernando Umana had some killer vocals, and their dancing was truly insane. Just like Parker, they were also super fierce in their many different outfits and “kinky” boots.
Overall, this cast was just truly outstanding, and they truly put 110% effort into their performances.
I also wanted to mention the wonderful technical aspects of the show. First, the set was truly remarkable. It was very elaborate and detailed, and could be easily moved around to make almost anything: a shoe factory, a bar, a department store, a nightclub, a fashion show, and even a bathroom. This set became so many different places, but stayed the same the entire time.
The score and orchestrations were outstanding, as well. The score by Cyndi Lauper was truly spectacular. I wanted to just jump out of my seat and dance in the aisles throughout most of the show. Stephen Oremus’ Tony-Award-winning orchestrations were also fabulous, and they fit the score perfectly. Jerry Mitchell’s Tony-Winning choreography was very entertaining, and his direction was wonderful, as well. Finally, Gregg Barnes’ costume design was simply beautiful, especially Lola’s costumes. The details put into every costume, especially the boots, were simply gorgeous! You would be able to see every single little sparkle from a mile away!
This production was almost perfect. However, one little thing slightly bothered me. The sound design wasn’t the best. Sometimes the orchestra seemed to be a bit too loud, while other times you couldn’t understand what the actors were saying (it honestly sounded like gibberish in some numbers). I know this wasn’t the actors’ faults, but it was hard for me to enjoy the show when you couldn’t hear or understand the actors half of the time. I felt a little bad for them. Other than this one technical issue, the technical aspects were great!
Overall, I give “Kinky Boots” 3.5 out of 4 stars. Harvey Fierstein’s Tony-nominated book sends a wonderful and powerful message about staying true to yourself, and not letting anyone change who you are as a person. Mixing this outstanding message with Lauper’s fabulous score makes it a truly outstanding night at the theater. It is fun, sexy, and heartwarming all wrapped up into one spectacular musical. It is a show that I would love to see again sometime in the future, and I 100 percent recommend it to anyone who wants to have a fun, irresistible night at the theater.KinkyBoots_KinkyBootsTour_PhotobyMatthewMurphy_Photo3