Broadway musical 'Kinky Boots' tells heartwarming tale of reinvention

AddThis

Who’s better to save a struggling shoe factory than a hair-twirling drag queen? Lola, the star of Broadway Play “Kinky Boots,” a classic tale of reinvention turned into a heart-warming story of love, acceptance and fabulous shoes.

In this Tony Award-winning musical, a kid from Northhampton trying to live up to his father’s expectations finds an unexpected counterpart in a glamorous drag queen. The strong cast takes the audience through a full range of emotions from laughter to tears, their three-dimensional performances making the happy ending anything but cheesy. The musical is based on the true story of an English shoe factory that started manufacturing “kinky boots,” women’s shoes in men’s sizes for transgendered people. Starring J. Harrison Ghee and Adam Kaplan, the play will be running at Bass Concert Hall from Nov. 10 to 15.

Charlie Price comes from a long line of shoe makers, and his father wants him to stay in his hometown and run their factory, Price & Co. Charlie decides to run in the opposite direction and go to London with his girlfriend. He returns to Northhampton following the death of his father and finds Price & Co in dire financial straits. Charlie runs into Lola, a high-heeled drag queen, who inspires him to explore the niche market of transgender footwear in order to save the shoe factory.

J. Harrison Ghee, who plays Lola, truly stole the show, holding the audience’s attention in every scene. He commited fully to each act, from delivering side-splitting one-liners as a burlesque entertainer to being movingly majestic in a serenade to her disowned father. When Lola first arrives in Northhampton to design shoes for Price & Co, she comes dressed as a conservatively dressed male. As she progressively changes from a subdued Simon (her given name) to full-blown drag throughout her stint in the little town, she reveals more and more of her true self.

Kaplan’s Price gave a decent performance as the hapless protagonist who Lola rescues, and provides a good bouncing board for many jokes. In several moving scenes with Ghee, Kaplan expressed believable emotions in even the wackiest of situations. On top of it all, his ending trot in six-inch heels alone makes the play worth a watch.

The adorable child version of Lola, played by Jomil Elijah Robinson, was a highlight of the show. Robinson runs onstage in heels, and one can’t help but cluck in sympathy as the little boy savors his gender-bending side before being chased offstage by his father. Lola’s entourage of dancing drag queens put many women to shame with their impressive, high-heeled dance routines as the Angels provided both eye candy and comic relief for the crowd.

Charlie’s love interests are relatable in their own ways, with one being an ambitious childhood sweetheart and the other a polar opposite small-town factory worker. Charissa Hogeland, who plays Charlie’s fiance and the driving force behind his move to London, does a good job of rounding out her character.

Lauren, played by Tiffany Engen, is a fantastic physical comedian, knowing just where to pause and use her body for exaggerated comedic effect. Engen had the crowd in tears from laughter during her professions of love, and her eclectic spunkiness provided comic relief after the heavier scenes. The character believes in Charlie and the factory more than anybody, and it is her belief in him that saves both Charlie and the factory.

“Kinky Boots” is a Broadway show that tiptoes the line between the fantastic and the relatable, delivered with enough rawness to make it human. One can’t help but to fall in love with Lola, and you’ll find yourself cheering her on as she takes on the town in her red heels. The musical is based on a true story, and reflects the very real issues of gay rights and awareness. As Lola would say, “Sometimes the best way to fit in is to stand out.”

When: Nov. 10-15
Where: Bass Concert Hall
Rating: 4.5/5