This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001

8Apr/13

KINKY BOOTS

(© Matthew Murphy)

Down-in-the-dumps shoe factory gets new life in flashy Broadway musical (© Matthew Murphy)

Al Hirschfeld Theatre
302 West 45th St. between Eighth & Ninth Aves.
Tuesday - Sunday through September 1, $57 - $137
www.kinkybootsthemusical.com

Adapted from the 2005 film that itself was inspired by a true story, Kinky Boots has marched onto Broadway looking fabulous while trying its best to balance itself on a pair of shaky, uneven, extremely high heels. It arrives with behind-the-scenes star power: Harvey Fierstein wrote the book, pop star Cyndi Lauper composed the music and lyrics, David Rockwell designed the set, and Jerry Mitchell, who will be awarded the “Mr. Abbott” Award for Lifetime Achievement in the American Theatre next month, directs and choreographs the splashy musical. Unfortunately, the problems start at the top, with underwhelming performances from Stark Sands (American Idiot, Journey’s End) as Charlie Price, who has been born into a shoemaking Northampton family but has bigger dreams than going into the family business, and Billy Porter (Miss Saigon, Grease, Dreamgirls) as Simon/Lola, a transvestite entertainer who teams up with Charlie to try to save the factory by designing sexy boots for men who dress up as women, exemplified by Lola’s sparkly — and, yes, definitely male — angels, played with plenty of panache by Paul Canaan, Kevin Smith Kirkwood, Kyle Taylor Parker, Kyle Post, Charlie Sutton, and Joey Taranto. But while Charlie plans to unveil the new line at a Milan fashion show, his fiancée, Nicola (Celina Carvajal), wants him to close the factory and move with her to London to start their new life together. Meanwhile, the factory workers, many of whom have followed in their parents’ footsteps, are caught in between, with tough, rugged Don (Daniel Stewart Sherman) representing the traditional, old-fashioned side of things and Lauren (Annaleigh Ashford) willing to do whatever it takes to keep Price & Son running.

(© Matthew Murphy)

Annaleigh Ashford steals the show as factory worker with her own dreams (© Matthew Murphy)

Sands is rather vanilla as Charlie, never really inhabiting the role, and Porter, taking on the part that earned Chiwetel Ojiofor a much-deserved Golden Globe nomination, stumbles over some line deliveries and doesn’t quite hit the necessary high notes, but Rockwell’s exciting movable set and a dazzling turn by Ashford (Hair, Wicked, Legally Blonde), who virtually steals the show with her knockout solo “The History of Wrong Guys,” help keep things on track, along with Gregg Barnes’s appropriately glitzy/trashy costumes. The second act is stronger than the first, although a boxing match between Don and Simon goes too far as Fierstein begins to fall into the same trap Jarrold did with the film, trying too hard to make its point about individuality and acceptance. Lauper’s score, which often references 1980s hits, featuring such songs as “Sex Is in the Heel,” “I’m Not My Father’s Son,” and the first-act ender “Everybody Say Yeah,” is strong if not quite as Broadway redefining as one might hope. Even with its bumpy, sometimes lumbering gait, Kinky Boots is a glittery, sparkly extravaganza, loaded with fun for divas of all shapes and sizes.

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