Kinky Boots: National Tour
Photo: Matthew Murphy.

Kinky Boots: National Tour

March 7-10, 2019

Popejoy Hall, UNM, Albuquerque


Kinky Boots link
Popejoy Presents link

Kinky Boots won the Best-Musical Tony (and a batch of others) in 2013. Six years later, the show is still chugging, winding-down its run on Broadway on April 7, but taking a new generation of performers on a tour around the smaller cities of America, where thigh-high platform boots on men is still a relatively new idea. Despite having a black man in heels as its comic lead, the show is thematically all pre-Hamilton, Obama-era whiteness, an anthem to things that have been forgotten in the current political maelstrom—like the potential for goodness in human beings.  

Kinky Boots’ red-sequined marketing and cross-dressing star make it sound like a drag-show designed for thousand-seat halls, but it is actually a male, heterosexual initiation ritual set in an English factory as grey and dreary and nondiverse as any coal plant in Ohio. The chorus is a dumpy-looking assortment of “real people.” Even the Angels, Lola’s London drag sidekicks, don’t stand-out in bar scenes as much as you would hope they would—they’re not that fabulous. However, the show does have a secret weapon—songs by Cyndy Lauper.

Lauper, with the help of Broadway veterans Harvey Fierstein (book) and director/choreographer Jerry Mitchell, has crafted a musical filled with actual pop songs, not just generic Broadway anthems. In quiet moments, like “Not My Father’s Son,” Lauper reveals the colors of a character organically.  The Act One finale, “Everybody Say Yeah” (check out the Tony Awards rendition on YouTube here) is one of the most shining examples of singing/dancing/Broadway perfection since “Hairspray’s” “You Can’t Stop the Beat.”

Road companies are not Broadway companies. One’s expectations must be tempered in Albuquerque.  A touring production of “Russian Ballet” which hit the Lensic Auditorium in Santa Fe not long ago, featured corps dancers who were scratching themselves onstage. The Kinky Boots production in Albuquerque was a huge touring machine and very solid musically, although the initial sound levels were frighteningly loud.  (It took the sound person about twenty minutes to get things under control). And if the road company’s  Lola, played by R&B-style crooner Kenneth Mosley, was not a mover, one could always focus on the tall girls dancing around him, who were eight-feet-tall in heels and could kick up to their noses and drop down into splits like Can Can dancers.

Charlie Price, (Connor Allston) the young shoe factory owner, had a smallish but pleasing pop voice and a believable naivete about his performance. Lauren, (Kelsee Sweigard) the factory girl in line to win Charlie’s heart once he dispenses with his Yuppy fiancé, offered a truly idiosyncratic approach to a small part, turning  her every line into a stand-up comedienne’s set of  physical tics and gestures. This is the kind of thing you could only find on the road.

Big, fat Don, (James Fairchild),  representing homophobic bullies everywhere, is probably the best role a big, fat guy could ever hope to win. He gets to save Charlie (from himself), beat-up Lola in a slow-motion boxing match, and finally, dance wearing the world’s largest pair of go-go boots. Go Don.

Kinky Boots makes room for fatties and femmes, Yuppies and factory workers, black men who dress up as women, and men who just want their fathers’ love. What a radical idea.

Mr. Simpson has a BA in Journalism from the University of Southern California and worked as an advertising writer in Los Angeles before moving to New York to pursue a different passion: dance. He danced professionally in New York and Boston before founding a community-based modern dance company, Small City Dance Project, in Newburyport, MA. His fiction has appeared in literary journals and anthologies. He was a teaching fellow at Smith College, where he received his MFA in choreography. While living in the Bay Area for 15 years, he wrote about dance for the San Francisco Chronicle and other periodicals. In 2005, he was a NEA Fellow at the Dance Critics Institute, American Dance Festival. For culturevulture.net, he reviews dance, theatre and film. He moved to Santa Fe in October, 2008. He writes for "Pasatiempo," the Arts magazine of the "Santa Fe New Mexican."