Sunday, March 10, 2013

Kinky Boots

(I saw an early preview of Kinky Boots, so take everything I write with the proverbial grain of salt.)


Kinky Boots is not a great show. I'm not even sure it's a good show. But it is an entertaining show.

Annaleigh Ashford
The plot, as described on the Kinky Boots website:
Charlie Price (Tony nominee Stark Sands) has suddenly inherited his father’s shoe factory, which is on the verge of bankruptcy. Trying to live up to his father’s legacy and save his family business, Charlie finds inspiration in the form of Lola (Billy Porter). A fabulous entertainer in need of some sturdy stilettos, Lola turns out to be the one person who can help Charlie become the man he’s meant to be. As they work to turn the factory around, this unlikely pair finds that they have more in common than they ever dreamed possible… and discovers that when you change your mind about someone, you can change your whole world.

First, the negatives: Kinky Boots' book (by Harvey Fierstein) is predictable and often relies on cliches rather than being real for these particular people at this particular time. For example, Charlie's outburst in the second act feels insufficiently motivated and many degrees too harsh. And the It's a Wonderful Life moment is completely unearned.

Kinky Boots tries, unsuccessfully, to be fabulous and meaningful at the same time. When Lola performs at a nursing home, the interaction with her father falls completely flat as it is tossed away. Also, since performing at a nursing home is presented as something sad, it's a weird number to turn into a super-glam star turn, if you're going for meaningfulness. If you're going for fabulousness, however, it is pretty fabulous.

Kinky Boots also suffers from Stark Sands' lackluster performance as Charlie. He just isn't likeable enough to care about. (And they should really, really, really, give Billy Porter the final bow. He's the star of the show, and it's going to be depressing for Sands to hear the applause and cheering die down for him every night after the loud acclaim received by Porter.)

The final negative is not actually Kinky Boots' fault, but it's annoying nevertheless. There is something about drag that brings out a hooting-hollering obliviousness in many audience members, and their yelling and screaming and talking and wooooo-ing get very old very fast.

Now, the positives: Billy Porter makes Lola three-dimensional, on top of nailing all of his big numbers. Annaleigh Ashford's every line, movement, and sung moment are perfect; she is likeable, funny, and talented and nearly stole the show despite her small part. Cyndi Lauper's score is energetic and largely effective, although I wish she had used Broadway lyric conventions (true rhymes, repetition only for a reason, more character/plot development) rather than rock and roll conventions. Director Jerry Mitchell keeps the show moving along at an impressive clip, and his choreography brought a smile to my face again and again.

Despite these good points, the more I think about Kinky Boots, the less impressed I am. But I cannot deny the great fun I had watching it.

(N13, orchestra, tdf ticket)

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

You make an interesting point: does a show owe us more than a fun 2 hours? Does it have to stay with us, or improve with time?

Wendy Caster said...

I'm not sure if there are absolute answers to those questions, but I do know that I recommended Kinky Boots to someone the other day.

I wonder how/if reviews have changed now that critics have time to think about shows before writing about them, rather than running to their typewriters as soon as the opening night curtain goes down. Some shows really do grow in retrospect, and some really do shrink.

Thanks for your comment.

Anonymous said...

My wife and I thought the show was awesome. The music was awesome, and the acting riveting. We had high expectations going in, and after the show, were even more impressed.

Wendy Caster said...

Thanks for your comment!