Review: Big red heels of ‘Kinky Boots’ fit beautifully

Charlie (Steven Booth) and Lola (Kyle Taylor Parker) embark on a new shoe adventure in "Kinky Boots," at the Orpheum Theatre in San Francisco through Dec. 28th. (Photo by Matthew Murphy)
Charlie (Steven Booth) and Lola (Kyle Taylor Parker) embark on a new shoe adventure in “Kinky Boots,” at the Orpheum Theatre in San Francisco through Dec. 28th. (Photo by Matthew Murphy)

“Kinky Boots” sure has a ton of heart.

It permeates throughout the entire show. It oozes through the “Angels,” the backup drag queen ensemble that operates on a totally different level of ferocity. It radiates through Lola, the sassy and passionate leader of the Angels. And ultimately, it pulses through Charlie, who has to make peace with his late father’s memory in order to find his own passion in an industry that does little to inspire him.

Seeing this show on Broadway this past April was pure bliss, led brilliantly by the great Billy Porter as Lola, the sassy, self-confident drag queen. The first national tour now running at the Orpheum Theatre through Dec. 28th is certainly on par with the original Broadway show that garnered 13 Tony nominations, six of which became winners, including the coveted best musical award.

According to Lola (blue dress), "The sex is in the heel." (Matthew Murphy photo)
According to Lola (blue dress), “The sex is in the heel.” (Matthew Murphy photo)

The story is based on the 2005 movie of the same name, following jovial goober Charlie Price, who just inherited a shoe company that is sinking fast. The ever-loyal Charlie (a warm and satisfying Steven Booth) certainly has his work cut out for him, both professionally and personally, trying to satisfy his divalicious future bride Nicola (Grace Stockdale) and an assortment of employees who are counting on his fledgling leadership. But it is Lola (a fabulous Kyle Taylor Parker) who he truly bonds with, creating a friendship and an alliance that makes his employees wonder if there may be other “reasons” why he has a new spring in his step.

Renowned playwright and actor Harvey Fierstein has a firm hand on the book, with plenty of depth in the writing and lots of quick, snappy dialogue. Fierstein is the author of one of my favorite plays, entitled “On Tidy Endings,” in addition to his epic “Torch Song Trilogy.” He is right at home here, and it definitely feels like the collaboration with Cyndi Lauper is one that has a bright future. Throw in the sure-handed touch of director/choreographer Jerry Mitchell and you have a play well-fitted.

Lauren (Lindsay Nicole Chambers) and Charlie (Booth). (Matthew Murphy photo)
Lauren (Lindsay Nicole Chambers) and Charlie (Booth). (Matthew Murphy photo)

Lauper is a woman with a reputation as a free-spirited pop diva, and she certainly brings the house down with some great songs and bright, sunny lyrics including the act one finale “Everybody Say Yeah.” She also has composed some wonderful standards that are a bit deeper than that adrenaline-fueled act one finale number. Songs like “Land of Lola,” “The Sex is in the Heel,” “The History of Wrong Guys” and the powerful “Not my Father’s Son” show such wonderful range and really hones in on the characters in their most transitional moments.

Making its debut in San Francisco, “Kinky Boots” arrived with all the flair that has made the Broadway production such a sensation. This touring cast is full of joy and flash, with sharp pieces in each principal and ensemble role.

Leading the cast is Lola, played by Parker. Now if you have been one of the lucky souls that was able to see Porter’s Tony-winning turn as the confident, yet conflicted drag queen, the concerns over seeing the touring actor will be gone in a flash. While Porter plays the role with a smoothness and fluidity, gliding across the stage, Parker is a force, a visceral presence that commands attention. He cuts a powerful and voluptuous figure, and is equal parts jubilation and heartbreak. He is deliciously sassy and wholly gorgeous.

Kyle Taylor Parker as "Lola." (Matthew Murphy photo)
Kyle Taylor Parker as “Lola.” (Matthew Murphy photo)

Other roles were also wonderfully sharp. Booth’s Charlie certainly had wonderful senses as a man who finds his passion, allowing the pressures of a business to consume him, and ultimately understand those whom he calls friends. Lindsay Nicole Chambers playing the secret lover Lauren is such a treat, and the lovable brute Don (lovable lug Joe Coots) finds his soft side, much to the audience’s delight.

“Kinky Boots” is definitely a fun time at the theatre, with a freshness that is intoxicating. While there are certainly moments where the show may feel a tad bit sappy and overly sentimental, with the first act being slightly better than the second, there is no denying what this show is – non-stop fun, with a big, red heart placed firmly in the heel.

WHAT TO KNOW IF YOU GO

SHNSF presents “Kinky Boots”
Directed and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell
Book by Harvey Fierstein
Music and Lyrics by Cyndi Lauper
The Word: Non-stop sexy fun, firmly entrenched in the big red heel.
Stars: 4.5 out of 5
The Orpheum Theatre
1192 Market Street (at 8th) San Francisco, CA 94102.
Dec. 3rd – 28th
Tickets range from $40 to $210
Running Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes with a 15-minute intermission
Online: www.kinkybootsthemusical.com
For tickets, call (888) 746-1799 or visit www.shnsf.com.

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