Kinky Boots

Kinky Boots

4/28/13 (Sun), Broadway

I had been wary of this show given the preachy tendencies of its author Harvey Fierstein and the predictable arc of the story, which, without even knowing the movie, I could smell a mile away (boy meets drag queen, boy loses drag queen, boy learns to admire drag queens). But Fierstein is always good for a joke or two, and I was curious about the Cyndi Lauper (!) score. And having snagged a standing room seat at $27, the price was right. 

The show was no better or worse than expected. A young man has inherited a dying shoe factory in a small English town, and is being pushed by his snobbish fiancée to shut the business down – which would put his loyal staff out of work – to make way for a condo development. Rescue comes in the form of a drag queen, who designs a highly successful line of quality boots for the “ladies”. The man dumps his fiancée and falls for the young factory girl who has stood behind him; the fat redneck worker spars (literally, in a boxing ring) with the drag queen, who turns out to be a former boxer, and learns to accept him; and the entire cast, including the young man and fat redneck, marches out one by one to model the firm’s knee-high kinky boots in a virtual copy of the La Cage Aux Folles climax (also scripted by Fierstein).

The plea for tolerance fortunately wasn’t too heavy other than the tired scenes with the redneck. The book overall was well written, surprisingly preserving the English setting and regional British English dialogue, including some impenetrable slang. That made for an interesting contrast with The Full Monty, which transferred all the action from the British film to Pittsburgh. It made me suspect that the show followed the film closely, though I’m not curious enough to actually watch it. The drag queen’s appearance in male garb was nicely done, but they really should have avoided putting him into boxing shorts, which was distracting and ruined the illusion somehow. (In fact, that whole trite boxing scene is tiresome and should be excised. The idea of this flamboyant queen as boxer smells of desperation. There must be some other way to show how manly he is, if that’s even necessary.)

The songs are fitted mechanically into the plot but work in their modest functional way, though I’m not sure how well they reflect a British mentality. Some of Lauper’s tunes were attractive, and the music overall had a nostalgic (for me) feel that actually matched the setting nicely. But the lyrics were trite and the pop sound entirely forgettable for the most part, as per the Broadway standard these days – it didn’t help that I was coming directly from a performance of the tuneful Hello, Dolly. The staging was efficient and little more. The drag queen world is as well worn nowadays as those shoes, and the musical hardly breaks new ground. I would say the show is harmless. It’s a pleasant diversion at $27, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it at anything higher.

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