Monday, June 12, 2017

Review: Kinky Boots at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre in New York City

Aloha!

Whenever I get anywhere near New York City I make every effort possible to get into town to see a Broadway show. There is absolutely no better place on the planet to see quality musical theatre, as all of the best singers, dancers, actors, and musicians aspire to perform there. Also, the shows run for extended engagements, so the sound, lights, effects, and sequencing are all absolutely flawless. I was recently in town and decided to see Kinky Boots, which was the best choice out of all of the musicals I have not seen yet. Without a doubt it is the most entertaining show I have ever seen.

The show is playing at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre, a gorgeous venue that opened in 1924 at 302 West 45th Street in midtown Manhattan. It was supposed to be the most opulent theatre of its time, and it has over 1400 seats and dressing rooms that can accommodate up to 200 performers. In 2003 it was renamed after the famed Broadway caricature artist, and you can find examples of his work there, as well as cocktails that cost around 30 bucks.

Kinky Boots has been playing at the Hirschfeld since April 4, 2013. It is based on a 2005 British film that was inspired by a 1999 episode of a documentary that told the true story of Steve Pateman, who saved his family-run shoe factory from closure by producing fetish footwear for men (Divine Footwear). Tony-winning producer, Daryl Roth, thought this story would make a great musical and she obtained the rights to adapt the film to the stage. She brought on the team of Cyndi Lauper (2 Grammys and an Emmy) and Harvey Fierstein (4 Tonys) to write the show. It has been an unqualified success, receiving 13 Tony nominations and bringing home 6 of the awards. Cyndi only needs an Oscar to finish off her EGOT!

From the last paragraph, you probably already have the gist of the plot, and the show is set in Northampton, London, and Milan. It follows the lives of Charlie the shoemaker and Lola the entertainer as they meet, learn from each other, and eventually become friends. There are the usual themes of love and strife, and a good sense of drama is developed as crises arise. Fierstein wrote the book for this show, which is tight and in line with his previous work that includes drag queens, including La Cage aux Folles and Torch Song Trilogy.

As it has been four years since the show debuted, the original cast has mostly moved on, but there is no shortage of talent on Broadway, so their shoes have been well filled. J. Harrison Ghee plays Lola, and his amazing voice and charisma makes him the hands-down star of the show. Opposite him is Killian Donnelly as Charlie, who is also very good, though perhaps a little less believable in his part. Taylor Louderman and Shannon O’Boyle play the ladies in Charlie’s life, and both are perfect for their roles. There are a few holdovers from the original cast, including Daniel Stuart Sherman, whose portrayal of Don (the shop foreman) is essential to balancing the mood of the show.

All of the other elements of the show were spot-on. The full orchestra was very good, and the sound engineers did a great job of making sure that everybody could be heard with a good balance and not too much volume. The sets and costumes (those boots!) were also first-rate, and the lighting worked well without being a distraction. Pretty much, everything was set up to allow this show to succeed, and after all these years they seem to have figured it all out.

All that is left to talk about is the show itself. The score and lyrics are great, though there is not really a musical theme that carries over through the show, so it can seem disjointed at times. Also, the plot is kind of predictable and I thought that bringing Lauren in as Charlie’s replacement girlfriend seemed to happen a little too suddenly. But these are fairly minor quibbles, and the show really rocked from start to finish.

I have to say, I have seen a ton of musicals over the years, and I have to rank the Wicked and The Lion King as top of the heap due to their overall quality, from writing to production, but none of the shows have beaten Kinky Boots for overall entertainment value. The rest of the audience agreed, and I have never seen a crowd react so enthusiastically for a show before.

If you are visiting New York City any time soon and can only see a few shows, Kinky Boots should definitely be on the list. Trust me!

Mahalo!

2 comments:

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