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Monday, October 13, 2014

Review: "KINKY BOOTS" KICKS SOME FUN INTO A FETISH AT THE 5TH AVENUE THEATRE


Kyle Taylor Parker stars as Lola in the First National Tour of Kinky Boots, at The 5th Avenue Theatre.
​Credit Matthew Murphy
The old Chinese dragon, coiled around the chandelier on the ceiling of Seattle's historic 5th Avenue Theatre, must have been hanging on for dear life last Thursday night. It was the press opening of Kinky Boots, and by the end, it felt like a party. The orchestra rocked the house—I mean you could feel the beat in its bones—and everyone got on their feet, wildly applauding. Stir together portions of cabaret, poignancy, excellent and plentiful humor, elements of a rock concert and a Fourth of July fireworks show, and you might begin to understand why.

The recipe for this success includes top quality ingredients in every category—spectacular music, acting, vocals, choreography, sets, lighting, costumes, sound, and more. Beginning with my first impression of the realistic opening street scene outside an old brick building, and on to a dazzling fashion show cat walk, I could hardly blink for fear of missing something. One of my greatest pleasures at this theater is the set designs, lighting, and music, and all were as good as it gets. Watching the clever scenes change seamlessly before our eyes added to the fascination. 


The cast of the First National Tour of Kinky Boots, coming to The 5th Avenue Theatre.
Credit Matthew Murphy
I had never seen the movie version of Kinky Boots, and didn't know what to expect. This musical adaptation came about through a collaboration between writer Harvey Fierstein and Cyndi Lauper, who did the music and lyrics. This is the show's first national tour since appearing on Broadway. Judging by the audience's reaction, I dare say virtually everyone there considered the ticket price a bargain. This unusual story, apparently based on a true incident and set in England in modern times, brings together the fates of the failing Price and Son shoe factory and a group of male cross-dressers with a need for sturdy, but super sexy, high heeled boots. As I said, I didn't know what to expect, but I know I did not expect to be so thoroughly entertained.

Kyle Taylor Parker, a cast member of the original Broadway production, brings his considerable pizzazz to Seattle as the gorgeous, sequined, and in-charge character "Lola," who was formerly a trained boxer named Simon. The beautiful "Angels" surrounding Lola are men too. You might find yourself staring in disbelief. I actually checked the program's "Who's Who" pages to be sure they really had male names because they were so convincing as women. 


Lola (Kyle Taylor Parker, left) and Charlie Price (Steven Booth, right) in the First National Tour of Kinky Boots, coming to The 5th Avenue Theatre.
​Credit Matthew Murphy
While dealing with the demands of a sexy but shallow, social-climbing fiancĂ©e, Nicola (Grace Stockdale), Charlie Price (Steven Booth), the reluctant heir of his dead father's shoe business, finds himself questioning everything. Should he give up on his father's legacy, sell the factory to a condo developer, or go against Nicola and try to save it by making a bold move? His employees rebel, the risks seem enormous, and meanwhile, he finds himself unexpectedly developing a friendship (totally platonic) with Lola/Simon, partly based on a commonality—both of them loving and wanting to be loved by fathers who just couldn't see, understand, or accept who they really were. But the friendship is also based on the fact that they just genuinely like each other, which is, in some ways, the point of the whole thing, that is, looking past prejudgements to see the person inside, who might not be so different from ourselves.

A powerful and charismatic presence on the stage, Parker's Lola will charm you, entertain you, and—whether you believe it or not right now—probably convince you that judging less and seeing more of the humanity in every human being makes everyone freer to make friends with people different than themselves and live their best lives. Deep down, we're not all that different. At the same time, the musical doesn't get too pushy about being open-minded. The factory workers, as expected, bring plenty of doubts, distrust, and preconceived notions to the idea of saving the shoe factory by meeting the needs of a niche market, namely drag queens. 


The cast of the First National Tour of Kinky Boots, coming to The 5th Avenue Theatre.
​Credit Matthew Murphy
Although I don't believe most people attend musicals expecting anything truly profound to emerge, and this one is no exception. However, it does relate to all of us, even those who might totally reject the idea of cross-dressers, because of its universal themes and emotions. It is playful and serious at the same time, without taking itself too seriously. Mini plots and layers of relationships keep things interesting. Lindsay Nicole Chambers was a complete delight as Price and Son employee Lauren, smitten with Charlie (Steve Booth), her boss. 


Lauren (Lindsay Nicole Chambers) and Charlie Price (Steven Booth) in the First National Tour of Kinky Boots, coming to The 5th Avenue Theatre.
​Credit Matthew Murphy
Will Charlie choose Nicola or Lauren? Will his innovative but highly risky idea bring success or disaster? Can they beat both the clock and the competition? Will macho employee Don (Joe Coots) or his co-workers cause trouble or foster cohesion? (Will Charlie put his pants back on?) Sure, the answers are pretty predictable, but I still won't tell you. I will tell you to get your tickets now, because this one is a "must see. The amount of talent, the polished performances, and the visual impact, will just astound you. Congratulations to everyone involved! 

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