Pop, hot and haute culture around Seattle

KinkyBootsKinky Boots just opened at Seattle’s Fifth Avenue Theatre on October 7 and runs until October 26. This show swept the Tony Awards in 2013 and so, as is usual in these cases, my attitude always is, “OK, prove to me you’ve earned it.”

And, in this case (as often happens, but not always) this show proved it, in a big way.

Now, I’ve never seen the original film this is based on, but, purely from a theatrical sense, this show works well. Despite the wide range of the story (from Northampton to London to Milan) and the backstories, Harvey Fierstein’s book keeps the storyline clear and on-target. Assisted by Jerry Mitchell’s crisp direction, the story moves along briskly and never lags. We also quickly identify the main characters and their personalities, so when any of them move into the storyline, we have no trouble wondering who they are.

To me, though, the real surprise was Cindy Lauper’s score. She does have a successful history as a pop singer/songwriter so that’s half the battle. But there’s still difference in the architecture of theater music. Fierstein himself taught her, and he obviously did a great job here, too: the songs move, bounce, and are never boring. They’re a revelation from a first-timer; Fierstein obviously knew what he was doing. (Another first-time notch for Lauper: her Tony for best music and lyrics was the first solo win for a woman).

Of course, Fierstein knew what he was doing in his book, too. Not only does he delineate the characters but he also found the emotional hook for the show and it resonates. The story is about a young man (Charlie, played by Steven Booth) who inherits a shoe factory from his father. He learns the factory is about to go out of business, a victim of cheap foreign labor. His salvation comes in the form of a larger-than-life drag queen, Lola/Simon (Kyle Taylor Parker). Neither quite understands the other until the night they discuss their relationship to their fathers. Both took paths which disappointed their fathers and suddenly they got it. That ‘bromance’ (as Fierstein describes it) brought them together, and it’s a universal one of understanding and that by finding your passion, you’ll find your place.

Because Fierstein developed characters, rather than stereotypes, many other chords were struck. Lauren (Lindsay Nicole Chambers) finds herself falling in love with Charley (who’s already engaged), and relates her consistent bad luck in “History of Wrong Guys”: hilarious, show-stopping, and moving, all at once. And, of course, the very talented cast makes all this believable and workable.

The entire production works, especially David Rockwell’s set; it’s a bare metal skeletion, with ladders and catwalks, but its few walls and fluid props and dressings carries us easily across the settings of the story. Kudos also go to costume designer Gregg Barnes. His costumes are functional, flashy and workable…but his kinky boots, red, thigh-high-heels steel the shoe (er, steal the show). He not only built shoes to last but they also look brand new, never been worn, night after night. Not an easy task. Kenneth Posner, lighting, John Shivers, sound designer, Josh Marquette and Randy Houston Mercer (makeup and hair designers, respectively) all deserve recognition for their contributions to this success.

Don’t be shy. Don’t be reticent. You don’t even need to wear kinky boots (but that never hurts). What you do need is to buy a ticket and show up for one of the flashiest, warmest, funniest shows around.

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