Librettist Harvey Fierstein and composer Cyndi Lauper’s delightfully feel-good 2013 Tony Award-winning Best Musical “Kinky Boots” receives an outstanding local premiere at the Schuster Center courtesy of the Victoria Theatre Association’s Premier Health Broadway Series.
Based on the 2005 British film of the same name, this upbeat musical comedy of friendship, acceptance and empowerment primarily concerns the economic woes of Price and Son, a shoe manufacturing company in Northhampton, England in dire need of a new target market. Succeeding his deceased father, frequently frustrated Charlie (passionate understudy Ciarán McCarthy) doesn’t have a clue as to what would really spark a turnaround. However, salvation ultimately arrives at the foot of flamboyant drag queen Lola (dynamically fierce Timothy Ware). Lola’s savvy eye for fashion and Charlie’s desire to tap into a niche market and create sexy women’s boots for men provides the lighthearted, opposites attract-driven fuel which keeps the action endlessly entertaining. Still, by no means is this a show without depth or heart-tugging sincerity. After all, Charlie and Lola’s relationship particularly evolves to a better understanding of each other’s faults and similarities, resulting in impactful moments filled with tender respect and occasionally explosive disrespect.
McCarthy and Ware compellingly lead this fantastic tour which rivals the original Broadway production in tone and vivacity while retaining Jerry Mitchell’s expert original direction and choreography. McCarthy doesn’t receive the best musical material (in a lopsided decision, Lauper wrote multiple knockouts for Lola), but brings equal amounts of agitation, determination and introspective vulnerability to the forefront nonetheless. He supplies a first-rate performance giving credence to Charlie’s mission to pave his own trail no matter how far it strayed from his father’s vision. The exceptional Ware, the Broadway Lola standby who performed the role 186 times, attacks the Mead Theatre stage as if it were his personal runway with marvelously magnetic flair. In every saunter, swish, sashay, strut, finger snap, and head twirl, Ware thrillingly breathes vivacious life into Lola’s charming aura, particularly in the super sassy “Land of Lola” and “Sex Is in the Heel.” Both disco-flavored numbers are notably heightened by the mesmerizing talents and athleticism of Lola’s Angels (her fellow drag queens) splendidly portrayed by Joseph Anthony Byrd, Tony d’Alelio, John J. Dempsey, Ian Gallagher Fitzgerald, Xavier Reyes, and Andy Richardson. In addition to showcasing Lola’s natural ability to unify those around her as only she can, Ware’s heartfelt interpretation of “Not My Father’s Son” and roof-raising “Hold Me in Your Heart” endearingly explores Lola’s emotional baggage stemming from being raised by an intolerant father.
Elsewhere, excellent featured portrayals are delivered by perky understudy Erica Peck (offering a very playful rendition of “The History of Wrong Guys” in the role of Lauren, a Price and Son employee with a huge crush on Charlie), Katerina Papacostas as Charlie’s fiancé Nicola, Jim J. Bullock as overseer George, Aaron Walpole as bigoted Don, Madge Dietrich as loyal Pat, and Dan Tracy as Charlie’s longtime friend Harry.
The uniformly terrific creative team includes scenic designer David Rockwell, costumer Gregg Barnes (supplying specifically striking attire for Lola and her Angels), lighting designer Kenneth Posner, sound designer John Shivers, hair designer Josh Marquette, and make-up designer Randy Houston Mercer. Music director Roberto Sinha leads a solid orchestra.
If you need a proud and strong reminder that it’s okay to love who you are, let “Kinky Boots” bolster your declaration to just be.
“Kinky Boots” continues through May 28 in the Mead Theatre of the Schuster Center, Second and Main Streets, Dayton. Performances are Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 and 7:30 pm. Act One: 70 minutes; Act Two: 40 minutes. Tickets are $30-$97. For tickets or more information, call Ticket Center Stage (937) 228-3630 or visit ticketcenterstage.com.