KINKY BOOTS IS FABULOUS, FLASHY, HEELS TO THE CEILING, AND FULL OF HEART
The national tour of Kinky Boots at SHN’s Golden Gate Theatre now through May 22nd is a fierce extravaganza full of heart and infectious ‘80s inspired showtunes. Inspired by a true story, and 1905 indi film, KINKY BOOTS features a Tony winning score by Cyndi Lauper, and is directed by Tony winning choreographer, Jerry Mitchell. Written by the inimitable Tony winner Harvey Fierstein, it has a number of his signature bon mots that leave the audience doubled over with shocked laughter. It follows in his tradition of shows featuring drag queens, including the Torch Song Trilogy and La Cage aux Folles. The sold out opening night audience cheered for this second round of Boots in San Francisco.
The story is the basic come up with funds or lose the factory, an obsolete Brit shoe company that is headed by Charlie, the handsome son of the recently deceased boss. Played by an appealing Adam Kaplan, who hopes production of drag queen footwear will keep the factory in business. KINKY sizzles around a drag queen named Lola played by a fierce J. Harrison Ghee, who leads this two and half hour romp. As Lola brings her brand of heels and team of Angels to the shoe factory and rubs shoulders with the blue collar factory workers, the story heats up with some appealing tunes from Lauper. Mitchell has that “Hairspray” flash for the intense romps and mashups of his set and choreography. The keen assembly line number, “Everybody Say Yeah” with the dancers moving from one running conveyor belt to another, is a highlight of Mitchell's direction.
Fierstein is most successful when writing for Lola, the drag queen who designs the titular boots. She opens with the song “Land of Lola” and Ghee lights up the stage with incredible charisma and humor. Lola would be the standout star of the show if not for the scene-stealing virtuosity of Tiffany Engen as Lauren. Ghee is energetic and fierce as hell stomping the house down in an array of fabulous stilettos in “Sex Is The Heel” and slaying the audience with his one-liners and hysterical physicality. Engen’s solo number “The History of Wrong Guys” is the standout song of the show because of the ever increasing ingenuity of Engen’s physical comedy and the power and nuance of her voice. Lauper also seems most comfortable in her element: writing a power ballad about love.
Adam Kaplan is perfectly serviceable as the lead Charlie Price, whose family shoe factory is in trouble, which provides the impetus for the story. It is a very straightforward plot that can be pretty much completely mapped out after the first five minutes which doesn’t really take away from the audience’s ability to enjoy the ride. Price is a sort of extra-typical leading-man-broadway-tenor-straight-white-male. Kaplan does what he can with the character, but doesn’t have the comedy chops to match the level of Ghee and Engen. Yet Price brings the Golden Gate venue down when he sings his solo “Step One”. The English accents are jarring for a moment, but then cease to be a distraction. Ghee is strong when he explores the weaker moments of his character in “Not My Father’s Son” duet with Kaplan and in the sentimental “Hold Me in Your Heart.”
It is not until the second act when Lauper’s power anthems seem too become memorable, "What a Women Wants” with Ghee and the cast rocks with camp. The production quality is top-notch with David Rockwell’s scenic design bringing us from the dingy shoe factory to the runway of Milan. Gregg Barnes had a massive challenge as the costume designer, and he turns those drag queens out in style, although if any of the Angels make their way to the Castro they might learn a few things about tucking. Randy Houston Mercer’s makeup is also quite exquisite. Music Director Stephen Oremus has upbeat orchestrations that keep the men on their heels, the tour pit is conducted by the excellent Ryan Fielding Garrett.
The most fun in the production comes from Mitchell’s direction and choreography with incredibly intricate numbers that combine high heels and heavy machinery. Whenever Lola and the Angels take the stage the show really comes to life and becomes sexy and joyful. The rousing closing number “Raise You Up, Just Be” includes the entire company in the classy heels and gives that Mitchell classic sparkle close (minus the huge Hairspray Can). Kinky Boots is a quirky and colorful treat that delights and inspires, and leaves the audience humming and strutting their way out of the theatre. SHN has some great ticket deals for this run including the $40.00 rush seats that sell two hours before each performance and 40 MOBILE RUSH. Download the TodayTix app in your App Store to unlock the Rush ticketing feature for ShnSF.com. KINKY BOOTS is the best way to get this summer started. The sold out crowd were on their feet by the end of the closing number and wanted more. No need to arrive in heels, but when you leave you are sure to want to find a pair.
Book by Harvey Fierstein, Music by Cyndi Lauper
Directed and Choreographed by Jerry Mitchell
Music Director Stephen Oremus
Based on the Miramax Film Kinky Boots by Deane and Firth
Only through May 22, 2016
SHN Golden Gate Theatre
1 Taylor St., San Francisco, CA 94102
Running Time 2 hours 40 minutes
Tickets at https://www.shnsf.com/Online/default.asp