Jos N. Banks kills it as drag queen Lola in 'Kinky Boots' at Academy of Music

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The U.S. National Touring Company of “Kinky Boots,” at the Academy of Music through Sunday.

There’s no way to pinpoint exactly what kicked off the current pop-cult craze over all things gender-bendy. But the 2013 drag queen musical Kinky Boots, through Sunday at the Academy of Music, will surely go down as one of the trend’s more influential iterations.

Adapted by Broadway legend Harvey Fierstein (Torch Song Trilogy, La Cage Aux Folles) and 1980s pop star Cyndi Lauper from a fact-based 2005 British movie, Kinky Boots concerns a cabaret star and drag queen named Lola who helps save a failing men’s shoe factory by persuading its young owner to make outrageous, fabulous footwear marketed for cross-dressers.

An underdog production all but written off by theater insiders after a mediocre opening, Kinky Boots went on to sweep the Tony Awards, winning six. It has since become a box-office monster. An earlier touring production passed through Philly two years ago.

I won’t beat around the bush; I don’t like this musical. The film, which featured Chiwetel Ejiofor as Lola, dealt with urban decay and class conflict. The musical strips out all the grit, replacing it with puerile moral homilies. But it does feature some great tunes, including “Soul of a Man,” “Sex in the Heel,” and “What a Woman Wants.”

But who am I to argue? Kinky Boots is immensely, crazily beloved by fans.

The touring production opened Tuesday night to a hungry and enthusiastic full house that turned raucous with the entrance of Jos N. Banks (The Color Purple national tour) as the uber-fabu Lola. That was in the middle of the first number, “Price & Son Theme/The Most Beautiful Thing,” an otherwise sweet, sober elegy about sons, fathers, and shoes.  Sung by Charlie (Lance Bordelon, Saturday Night Fever national tour), the young heir to Price & Son, accompanied by his dad (Jeffrey B. Duncan, Annie national tour), the duet represents their last moments together before the elder Price’s unexpected death.

Lola puts a serious kink in the world of Price & Son, a traditionalist shoemaker founded more than a century ago in the heart of Northampton, a manufacturing town an hour northwest of London.

Backed by his six-man drag-queen chorus, aptly named The Angels, Banks owned the show as Lola with a full-throated, pedal-to-the-metal performance. His Lola perfectly epitomized the classic drag queen’s panache for exhibitionism and camp. Happily, Banks avoided the saccharine sentimentality so many actors use to soften drag-queen characters. He was equally if not even more compelling in men’s clothing as Simon — his birth name — in a pivotal scene that explored his turbulent relationship to his father. That scene ends with one of the show’s best songs, the lyrical, bittersweet “Not My Father’s Son,” a mirror-image of the “Price & Son” opening number.

I’m not sure many actors could match the intensity of Banks’ Lola. Bordelon didn’t seem to try, delivering a levelheaded if overly self-effacing turn as Charlie. It’s a shame: He has a nice voice but seems to be pulling his punches. Haley Lampart was disappointing as Charlie’s would-be wife, Nicola, an ambitious gal who wants to conquer London’s business world. The fault is partly due to the role as written: There’s very little for the character to do other than sulk. Opening night did reveal one tremendous surprise — a star turn by Sydney Patrick as Lauren, a klutzy, shy factory-floor worker who pines for Charlie. The petite actor gave a beautifully timed comic turn that recalled Tracey Ullman, Cheri Oteri, and Cyndi Lauper herself (who wrote the music and tunes for this show). Patrick also revealed a powerful singing voice in “The History of Wrong Guys.”

I admit it: On Tuesday night, I almost forgot my antipathy for Kinky Boots, swept up as I was by the great production numbers and clever choreography. For once, I almost agreed with the cheering crowds. Almost.

Kinky Boots. Through Sunday, Oct. 8, at the Academy of Music, 240 S. Broad St.
Tickets: $25-$96. Information: 215-893-1999, www.kimmelcenter.org.