A CurtainUp DC Review
You've gotta take what you've got
Even when your life is in knots
You take aim, take your shot
Sometimes, you've got to re-write the plot
You've got to take what you've got. . .
Timing, that all important element of life, can be unfortunate. Such is the case of Kinky Boots which just began its run at the Kennedy Center, the first stop on a 30-city tour nationwide. Across the Potomac River, at Signature Theatre, La Cage Aux Folles, a far superior musical in every way -- production, book, performances and intimacy (Signature is one fifth the size of the Kennedy Center's Opera House) is running concurrently with Kinky. Both musicals cover one important theme and that is acceptance of all people regardless of sexual-orientation. The other irony of timing is the fresh memory of horrific events in Orlando of just a few days ago.
Caption: J. Harrison Ghee and Adam Kaplan head the cast
Harvey Fierstein is responsible for the book of both musicals. The ideas he was working on in Kinky come to full fruition in La Cage, particularly "I Am What I Am," a wonderful anthem celebrating uniqueness and diversity. This and most other La Cage numbers, is superior to all the songs in Kinky. Jerry Herman's music, ok so its schmaltzy, is much more melodic than Cindy Lauper's bang-bang rock-based score.
The story of Kinky Boots is familiar. The family business is about to go under when someone has a brilliant, off-beat solution to the crisis. In this case it is the owner's son -- with the help of Lola -- who comes up with the idea of a niche market -- one that makes gaudy, glitzy very-high heeled boots for drag queens. The setting is Northern England where authentic accents are almost unintelligible to Americans. This cast, almost without exception, tries to replicate that voice but garbles all its variations. Why not just stick with what you know and what you can do? The plot would not suffer one bit.
J. Harrison Ghee, who plays the drag queen Lola, has a pleasant voice and very attractive long limbs with which he strikes beautiful poses. But somehow his performance is a reminder of a tall man/woman doing some informal modeling. This Lola is too quaint, too restrained. Playing opposite Lola, in the thankless part of Charlie Price, who inherits a failing shoe manufacturing enterprise, is Adam Kaplan. His performance is lackluster to say the least. At no point does he go beyond a cardboard version of his character.
When Kinky Boots, the musical that started life as an English film won the Tony for Best Musical in 2013, the chattering classes admitted that it was a "thin" year for musicals. So it is not surprising but very disappointing nonetheless that this production of Kinky Boots does not fit well.
For a show song list see our Broadway review
Book by Harvey Fierstein
Music and Lyrics by Cyndi Lauper
Music Supervision, Arrangements and Orchestrations by Stephen Oremus
Direction and Choreography by Jerry Mitchell
Scenic Design by David Rockwell
Costume Design by Gregg Barnes
Cast: Tom Souhrada (Mr. Price); Hudson Loverro/Aidan Passaro (young Charlie); Jayden Brown/Jhazz Fleming (young Lola); Horace V. Rogers (Simon Sr.); Charissa Hogeland (Nicola); Adam Kaplan (Charlie Price); Jim J. Bullock (George); Aaron Walpole (Don); Tiffany Engen (Lauren); Patty Lohr (Pat); Josh Tolle (Harry); J. Harrison Ghee (Lola); Joe Beauregard, Joseph Anthony Byrd, Sam Dowling, JP Qualters, Xavier Reyes, Sam Rohloff (Angels); Shawna M. Hamic (Trish); Zach Adkins (Richard Bailey); Annie Edgerton (Milan Stage Manager); Zach Adkins, Joe Beauregard, Damien Brett, Joseph Anthony Byrd, Sam Dowling, Annie Edgerton, Shawna M. Hamic, Patty Lohr, Ashley Moniz, Jennifer Noble, JP Qualters, Xavier Reyes, Horace V. Rogers, Sam Rohloff, Tom Souhrada, Josh Tolle, Sam Zeller (Ensemble.)
Run time: 2 hours with one 15-minute intermission.
Kennedy Center/Opera House, Washington, DC; June 14 to July 10, 2016. Tickets are $49 to $199. kennedy-center.org. #KinkyBootsTour. 202-467-4600.
Review by Susan Davidson based on June 17, 2016 performance.<
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