Time to get your ‘Kinky Boots’ on in Waterbury

by MIKE CHAIKEN

Editions Editor

I’m not sure if I’d be a happy guy wearing “kinky boots.”

After all, I’ve never tried walking in heels. I would think anything thigh high might chafe. And the shiny vinyl might make my feet sweat something awful.

However, I was a happy guy catching “Kinky Boots” on Tuesday, Dec. 6 at The Palace Theater in Waterbury.

Now, to be honest, I have already seen the musical in one of its previous tours through Connecticut. And I was more than likely predisposed to like it.

However, a different cast, a different cycle of a tour, can make the difference in whether I was watching the stage or wishing I could watch the time tick away on my iPhone.

Of course, the story by Harvey Fierstein based on the movie of the same name and the music and lyrics of Cyndi Lauper are still fabulous in this production. That’s a fact that any tour could not change.

However, I’m pleased to say the cast that stopped into downtown Waterbury also is fabulous.

J. Harrison Ghee, as Lola—the fashionable drag queen who becomes a fashionable shoe designer—has a tough road to hoe. After all, there have been a slew of fabulous Lolas in the Broadway production. And as a character who demands to be the center of attention at all times, Ghee has the responsibility of proving to the audience that he deserves that kind of attention.

And he does so superbly in this production. Ghee, whose voice at times reminded me of Seal, had most of the showstopping music numbers—such as the emotionally stirring, “Hold Me in Your Heart, and the saucy “Sex is in the Heel.” But he also proved himself a fine actor as he conveyed a man who is fabulous on the outside but has some demons to contend with. However, he is willing to share the wisdom he gained from his journey to help make the world a better, more accepting place.

Adam Kaplan had another difficult task as Charlie, the man who must save his father’s shoe factory and has the idea of making “kinky boots” to do so. Charlie is a kind of nerdish, shrinking violet and he doesn’t seem as if he is any match for the over-the-top character assault called Lola. But Kaplan’s grasp of his character’s journey, his ability to depict the growing confidence (and eventual overreach) provided the necessary balance between Lola and Charlie.

Although they were usually referred to in the collective, either as Angels or the “Girls,” Sam Dowling, Ian Gallagher Fitzgerald, JP Qualters, Xavier Reyes, and Sam Rohloff as Lola’s drag queen gang typically stole the show when they strutted out on stage. They were imposing figures in their colorful and wonderful costumes (courtesy of Gregg Barnes) atop stiletto heels. But they also were fierce dancers and backup singers, which added fabulously to the rich tapestry of the world of “Kinky Boots.” And, yes they were men playing women, but they also were quite lovely no matter their gender.

The choreography created by director Jerry Mitchell also added to the fun factor of “Kinky Boots” at The Palace. The dance numbers performed by the “girls” has already been noted. But one of the fun ensemble moments is when the cast danced on the rolling treadmills of the assembly line. It was one of the ingenious highlights of the evening and the performers all displayed an attention grabbing energy.

There were just so many great performers on stage that it’s hard to single them out. But a dip of my thigh-highs to Tiffany Engen as Lauren, Aaron Walpole as Don, Charissa Hogeland as Nicola, and Jim J. Bullock as George.

I give the Dec. 6 production of “Kinky Boots” at The Palace Theater in Waterbury four out of four stars.

“Kinky Boots” runs through Dec. 11. Tickets can be purchased online at www.palacetheaterct.org, by phone at (203)346-2000, or in person at the box office, 100 East Main St. A pre-show dinner is available in the Poli Club.

Before the Thursday and Friday evening performances and after the Sunday matinee of “Kinky Boots,” the Palace offers a pre-fixe, four-course dinner by Verbena Catering in the Poli Club, located on the mezzanine level of the theater. Price is $65 plus tax and service charge per person. A cash bar is also available. Seating is limited, and reservations can be made when purchasing tickets through the box office.

 

 

J. Harrison Ghee is 'Lola' in 'Kinky Boots' at The Palace Theater in Waterbury

J. Harrison Ghee is ‘Lola’ in ‘Kinky Boots’ at The Palace Theater in Waterbury