Sunday, December 21, 2014

New York Review: KINKY BOOTS

By Toby Zinman For the Inquirer Kinky Boots, based on the 2005 British film of the same name, might be why the word “fabulous” was invented. This is Big Broadway in the Best Way: a splashy, bouncy, smart show (book by Harvey Fierstein) with a heart and a message and beltable songs (music and lyrics by Cyndi Lauper) and hilarious production numbers (choreographed by Jerry Mitchell who also directs). And costumes! Big Costumes (Gregg Barnes). Kinky Boots is a show about love and shoes, proving, among much else, that the foot wants what the foot wants. The plot: Charlie (Stark Sands), heir to an old-fashioned, English, small-town factory that has made the same durable brogues for a century, is broke. Lola (Billy Porter), a drag queen with a troupe of drag angels, steps into the picture with a solution: manufacture for an underserved niche market, fancy boots with six-inch heels, big and strong enough for men. His ambitious fiancé (Celilna Carvajal) is left to her London career, Charlie finds the girl for him right beside him (Annaleigh Ashford), and everybody goes to Milan to walk the runway. Fierstein gives us Oscar Wilde’s advice as the plot’s center: “Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.” Kinky Boots is a show about tolerance and self-acceptance, and knockout performer Billy Porter, who delivers lines in a swishy growl much like Fierstein’s voice, is an excellent teacher of the lesson. Just as the delectable Annaleigh Ashford gets Lauper’s cheerful weirdness and eccentric trick voice, especially in her solo, “The History of Wrong Guys.” The songs are narrative rather than just repetitious, and they’re true to Lauper’s rocker roots and filled with clever, surprising rhymes. Stark Sands is the modest, honest, straight and straightforward balance to all this glitter and glamour, delivering “The Soul of a Man” with passion (although his singing always slips into a very American twang). Lola and Charlie share the stage for what is really the show’s moving theme song, “I’m Not My Father’s Son.” And the Act One exuberant curtain number, “Everybody Say Yeah,” sends the audience into intermission with genuine, grinning joy. Lola’s comment, “you’re never more than ten steps away from a cross-dresser” made the trip home much more interesting than it usually is. ========================= Al Hirschfeld Theate, 302 W. 45th St., NY. Tickets $57-137. Information: www.telecharge.com or 800-432-7250

New York Review: KINKY BOOTS

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By Toby Zinman
For the Inquirer
 
Kinky Boots, based on the 2005 British film of the same name, might be why the word “fabulous” was invented. This is Big Broadway in the Best Way: a splashy, bouncy, smart show (book by Harvey Fierstein) with a heart and a message and beltable songs (music and lyrics by Cyndi Lauper) and hilarious production numbers (choreographed by Jerry Mitchell who also directs). And costumes! Big Costumes (Gregg Barnes). Kinky Boots is a show about love and shoes, proving, among much else, that  the foot wants what the foot wants.
 
The plot: Charlie (Stark Sands), heir to an old-fashioned, English, small-town factory that has made the same durable brogues for a century, is broke. Lola (Billy Porter), a drag queen with a troupe of drag angels, steps into the picture with a solution: manufacture for an underserved niche market, fancy boots with six-inch heels, big and strong enough for men.  His ambitious fiancé (Celilna Carvajal) is left to her London career, Charlie finds the girl for him right beside him (Annaleigh Ashford), and everybody goes to Milan to walk the runway.
 
Fierstein gives us Oscar Wilde’s advice as the plot’s center: “Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.” Kinky Boots is a show about tolerance and self-acceptance, and knockout performer Billy Porter, who delivers lines in a swishy growl much like Fierstein’s voice, is an excellent teacher of the lesson. Just as the delectable Annaleigh Ashford gets Lauper’s cheerful weirdness and eccentric trick voice, especially in her solo, “The History of Wrong Guys.” The songs are narrative rather than just repetitious, and they’re true to Lauper’s rocker roots and filled with clever, surprising rhymes.  
 
Stark Sands is the modest, honest, straight and straightforward balance to all this glitter and glamour,  delivering “The Soul of a Man” with passion (although his singing always slips into a very American twang). Lola and Charlie share the stage for what is really the show’s moving theme song, “I’m Not My Father’s Son.”  And the Act One exuberant curtain number, “Everybody Say Yeah,” sends the audience into intermission with genuine, grinning joy.
 
Lola’s comment, “you’re never more than ten steps away from a cross-dresser” made the trip home much more interesting than it usually is.
=========================
Al Hirschfeld Theate, 302 W. 45th St., NY. Tickets $57-137.  Information: www.telecharge.com or 800-432-7250

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About this blog
Toby Zinman's night job since 2006 is theater critic for the Inquirer. She also is a contributing writer for Variety and American Theatre magazine. Her day job: Prize-winning prof at UArts, author of four books about four playwrights (Rabe, McNally, Miller, Albee), and doer of scholarly deeds (winner of five NEH grants, Fulbright lecturer at Tel Aviv University, visiting professor in China). Her 'weekend' job as a travel writer provides adventure: dogsledding in the Yukon, ziplining in Belize, walking coast-to-coast across England, and cowboying in the Australian Outback.


Wendy Rosenfield has written freelance features and theater reviews for The Inquirer since 2006. She was theater critic for the Philadelphia Weekly from 1995 to 2001, after which she enjoyed a five-year baby-raising sabbatical. She serves on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, was a participant in the Bennington Writer's Workshop, a 2008 NEA/USC Fellow in Theater and Musical Theater, and twice was guest critic for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival's Region II National Critics Institute. She received her B.A. from Bennington College and her M.L.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. She also is a fiction writer, was proofreader to a swami, publications editor for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and spends all her free time working out and driving people places. Follow her on Twitter @WendyRosenfield.


Jim Rutter has reviewed theater for The Inquirer since September, 2011. Since 2006, he covered dance, theater and opera for the Broad Street Review, and has also written for many suburban newspapers, including The Main Line Times. In 2009, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded him a Fellowship in Arts Journalism. Thames & Hudson released his updated and revised version of Ballet and Modern Dance in June, 2012. From 1998 to 2005, he taught philosophy and logic at Drexel, and then Widener University. He also coaches Olympic Weightlifting for Liberty Barbell, and has competed at the national level in that sport since 2001.


Merilyn Jackson regularly writes on dance for The Inquirer and other publications. She specializes in the arts, literature, food, travel, and Eastern European culture and politics. In 2001, she was dance critic in residence at the Festival of Contemporary Dance in Bytom, Poland; in 2005, she received an NEA Critics’ Fellowship to Duke University’s Institute for Dance Criticism. She likes to say that dance was her first love but that when she discovered writing she began to cheat on dance. Now that she writes about dance, she’s made an honest woman of herself, although she also writes poetry.

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