Kinky Boots

Be Who You Wanna Be

March 2016 Update:  The role of Lola is now played by Kyle Taylor Parker, and the role of Nicola is now played by Elena Juatco.
Kinky Boots closes May 15, 2016

There hasn’t been this much fun on the stage of the Royal Alexandra Theatre since Mamma Mia! in 2000.  The high-energy Broadway hit Kinky Boots has opened in Toronto with a nearly all-Canadian cast. But isn’t just a lot of fun; this show has a warm message coming from its big heart. Kinky Boots is all about accepting yourself and being who you want to be.  It is also about accepting those around you, and not judging others.

The story follows the plot of the 2005 movie that was inspired by a true story in England.  Charlie Price’s father dies suddenly leaving him with the family’s small-town, near-bankrupt shoe factory. He is faced with the difficult task of shutting it down and firing all the long-time employees, whom he has known all his life.  One staff member, Lauren, challenges him to find a new product to fill a niche market, rather than the sensible but out-dated men’s brogues that his father produced.  Kinky Boots Angels  After a chance meeting with Lola, a drag queen who performs in a London nightclub, Charlie decides to convert the factory to make fabulous high boots with stiletto heels with plenty of glitter and glamour, plus the support to hold a man’s weight.  Of course, things don’t go smoothly when Lola and her fellow drag queens, the Angels, visit the small-town factory.  Suffice to say minds are opened and changed.  People learn to be less judgemental about each other.  There is also a delightful love story, adding to the allure of the plot.

But it isn’t just the plot that makes Kinky Boots such a wonderful experience.  The music, singing and dancing are amazing with an energetic cast, to boot.

Kinky Boots won the Tony for best musical in 2013, and it’s easy to see why.  Harvey Fierstein, no stranger to Broadway success, wrote the script, and called on his friend Cyndi Lauper to write the music.  Lauper’s new found talent for musicals is obvious, as she combines solid rock with heartfelt ballads.  Director and choreographer extraordinaire Jerry Mitchell, with many successes under his belt, put the new musical together.

Alan Mingo Jr. is magnificent as Lola.  He has the confidence of Tina Turner belting a tune in stilettos, combined with the charm of a small boy very unsure of himself.  Mingo’s voice is excellent – not only can he belt all the pop-rock songs; he brings a tear to your eye with “Hold Me in Your Heart”.  Mingo is one of two or three cast members who are not Canadian, but he will certainly make his way into Canadian hearts.

Graham Scott Fleming handles Charlie Price perfectly in his first big role on a big stage.  Just when we are about to give up on the hapless Charlie, he wins us back with his heartfelt rendition of the show stopper, “Soul of a Man”.  Charlie and Lola sing “Not My Father’s Son” beautifully, a very touching song that brings them together.

The show’s comedy is provided by A. J. Bridel.  She is hilarious as Lauren, the factory worker who gets “executized”.  Bridel is perfect as the quirky character.  Her vocal squeaks and groans tell as much of the story as the cutesy faces she makes. Bridel was a top three finalist in the CBC’s Over the Rainbow show which chose Dorothy for Mirvish’s Wizard of Oz.  While she may not have made that final cut, this is certainly a better place for her to showcase her powerhouse voice.  Bridel was in Grand Bend last summer as Peter in the Peter Pan panto; again, Kinky Boots has put her skills to better use and she is shining with this opportunity. Her rueful rendition of “The History of Wrong Guys” is both funny and touching.

The costumes are outstanding: Lola and the Angels have a variety of wigs, with a different hair style for every one of their many glittering, glamourous outfits.  And then there are the boots – you have to see them to believe it.

The sets are well done.  The aging Price & Son shoe factory seems very authentic, inside and out.  Moving conveyor belts provide a fascinating stage for dancers, especially the Angels in their four inch stilettos.

Order your tickets now and plan a weekend trip to Toronto.  You must see this Canadian premiere of Kinky Boots.  The opening night audience interrupted the show frequently with applause and cheers, and at the end, the standing ovation was loud and long.

Don’t let the name put you off – it’s actually a good family show. There is nothing here that would prevent you from bringing along your grandmother or your kids.  As they say about shoes, it’s the most beautiful thing in the world.

Kinky Boots continues with eight shows a week at the Royal Alexandra Theatre.  Call Ticket King 416-872-1212 or 1-800-461-3333 or visit www.mirvish.com for tickets.

Photo: Charlie Price (Graham Scott Fleming) and Lola (Alan Mingo Jr.) both at centre, surrounded by the Angels.  Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.

Kinky Boots
Book by Harvey Fierstein (Based on the motion picture Kinky Boots, written by Geoff Deane and Time Firth, inspired by a true story)
Music and Lyrics by Cyndi Lauper
Directed and Choreographed by Jerry Mitchell
Performed by Alan Mingo Jr., Graham Scott Fleming, A. J. Bridel, Daniel Williston, Vanessa Sears, James Kall, et al
Produced by David Mirvish et al
Royal Alexandra Theatre, Toronto
Opened June 28, 2015, extended to March 6, 2016
Reviewed by Mary Alderson

Disclaimer:  The writer’s son, Thomas Alderson, is part of the Kinky Boots cast.

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