THE BOOTS AND HEELS RETURN TO SAN FRANCISCO AND IT IS A CROWD PLEASER
RAY OF LIGHT RETURNS TO BAY AREA THEATRE AND ONCE AGAIN IS THE BRIGHT STAR IN THE SF MISSION
Review by Vince Mediaa
KINKY BOOTS IS FABULOUS, FLASHY, HEELS TO THE CEILING, AND FULL OF HEART. Ray of Light theatre returns after close to three years of bringing their lavish bright theatre to SF Mission. In fact the haunted Victoria Theatre had to change the bulb in their ghost light to bring this Tony honored show the “red for love” knee high KINKY BOOTS. Directed and choreographed by the TBA honored Alex Rodriguez and musical direction by the flawless Ben Prince.
KINKY BOOTS at ROLT is now on stage through Oct 1st at the Victoria Theatre. This musical is a fierce extravaganza full of heart with infectious musical showtunes. Inspired by a true story, and 1905 indi film, KINKY BOOTS features a Tony winning score by Cyndi Lauper, with a book by the inimitable Tony winner Harvey Fierstein. It has a number of Fierstein signature one liners that leave the audience doubled over with laughter. “Please, God, tell me I have not inspired something burgundy. Red. Red. *Red*. *Red*, Charlie boy. *Red*! Is the color of sex! Burgundy is the color of hot water bottles!”. 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 pay your bills or lose the factory, an obsolete shoe company that is headed by Charlie, the handsome son of the dead boss. Played by an appealing Jake Gale, 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 Marshall Forte, who leads this two and half hour romp.
As Lola brings her brand of heels to the shoe factory and rubs shoulders with the blue collar factory workers, the story heats up with some appealing tunes from Lauper. Some songs have that “Hairspray” flash back for the intense romps and mashups of Rodriguez’s choreography. The keen assembly line number, “Everybody Say Yeah” with the dancers moving from on a live conveyor belt, is a highlight of Rodriguez's direction.
Lola, played by the glorious Marshall Forte, opens with the song “Land of Lola”. Forte lights up the stage with incredible charisma and humor. Lola would be the standout star of the show if not for the scene-stealing talent of Chanel Tighman as Lauren. Forte is energetic and fierce stomping the house down in an array of fabulous stilettos in “Sex Is The Heel” and slaying the audience with his one-liners and swagger. Tilghman’s solo number “The History of Wrong Guys” is the standout song. Song composer Lauper also seems most comfortable in her element: writing a power ballad about love.
Jake Gale is superb as the lead Charlie Price, whose family shoe factory is in trouble, a predictable story. Its is a story we have seen many times completely mapped out after the first five minutes. Yet it doesn’t really take away from the audience’s ability to enjoy the ride. Gale is a typical leading man tenor straight white male. Gale does what he can with the character, but doesn’t have the comedy chops to match the level of Forte and Tilghman. Yet Gale brings the Victoria stage down when he sings his solo “Step One”. Two young actors open the show as Lola and Charlie as kids, the talented Austin Engwerda and Tenzin Forder who as a preteen is an expert in heels. The two kids frame the show.
The cast also includes Matt Davis as the lead factory worker Don and Vida Mae Fernandez as Nicola, the girl friend. The cast includes the rousing Milo Boland, Andy Collins, Charles Evans, Kipp Glass, Don Hardwick, Mary Kalita, Andrea Laufer, Madeline Lambie, Brigitte Losey, Cadarious Mayberry, Neal Pascua, Jillian Smith, and Catherine Traceski they are all excellent as the various factory workers and supporting cast.
Lola and her Angles feature Dane Paul Andres, Jon Gary Harris, Zack Isen, Gustavo Morales break out the first act with show stopping numbers. “Everybody Say Yeah” and the showstopping “In This Corner”. The Angels take center stage during the prize fight that Lola uses to prove her mad skills. Also the second Act includes the memorable, "What a Woman Wants” with Forte and the cast rocks with camp.
The production design is top-notch with Eric Broadwater’s scenic design bringing us from the dingy shoe factory to the runway of Milan. The costume team; Maggie Whitaker, Shane Ray, Sara Altier and Maggie Lai had a massive challenge as they turn those drag queens out in style. An important part of the production team includes the Fairy Dragmothers who shadowed the Angels; D Arcy Drollinger and Carnie Asada added some perfect swagger. Vanilla Merinque’s makeup is also quite exquisite.
Music Director Ben Prince has upbeat orchestrations that keep the cast on their heels, the backstage pit includes; Dave Dobrusky, Scott Welsh, Russ Gold, Marc Zollinger, Jeff Patterson, Ari Gorman, Jason Park and Eryn Allen. Stage Manager Lori Fowler wrangled a 30 member cast on a two level set.
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 director Rodriguez classic stand and cheer touch. This feel good production is the best example of Rodriguez’s award winning choreography with stylish numbers that combine high heels and a belt machine. KINKY BOOTS is fabulous, flashy and full of heart, and leaves the audience humming and strutting their way out of the theatre. KINKY BOOTS is the best way to welcome back ROTL. The sold out opening night crowd were on their feet before 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.
Ray of Light Theatre Presents
Book by Harvey Fierstein, Music by Cyndi Lauper
Based on the Miramax Film Kinky Boots by Deane and Firth
Directed and Choreographed
by Alex Rodriguez
Additional Choreography: Dane Paul Andres
Music Director: Ben Prince
Only through Oct 1, 2022
The Victoria Theater
2961 16 St., San Francisco, CA 94102
Running Time 2 hours 40 minutes
Tickets at https://www.eventbrite.com
Photo's by ROLT
Director/Choreographer: Alex Rodriguez
Additional Choreography: Dane Paul Andres
Music Director: Ben Prince
Set Designer: Eric Broadwater
Lighting Designer: Weili Shi
Costume Designer: Maggie Whitaker
Make Up Design: Vanilla Meringue
Prop Design: Alex Kirschner
Graphic Design: Yrving Torrealba
Dialect Coaching: Lynne Soffer
Technical Direction: Matt Owens
Stage Manager: Lori Fowler
House Manager: Victor Pesina
Production Managers: Roy Eikleberry + Jessica Coker Mohr
Master Electrician: Austin Critchlow
Spotlight Operator: Josh Kirkbride
Marshall Forte: Lola/Simon
Jake Gale: Charlie Price
Chanel Tilghman: Lauren
Matt Davis: Don
Vida Mae Fernandez: Nicola
Andy Collins: George
Andrea Laufer: Pat
Mary Kalita: Trish
Milo Boland: Harry/Crispin
Charles Evans: Mr Price / Moishe
Cadarious Mayberry: Simon Sr / Locke
Madeline Lambie: Milan Stage Manager/ Marge
Zachary Isen: Angel
Jon Gary Harris: Angel
Dane Paul Andres: Angel
Gustavo Morales: Angel
Kipp Glass: Richard Bailey / Paddington
Jillian Smith: Maggie
Don Hardwick: Mutt
Catherine Traceski: Gemma Louise
Neal Pascua: Hooch
Tenzin Forder: Young Simon
Austin Engwerda: Young Charlie
Brigitte Losey: Swing