Theater Review: ‘Kinky Boots’ struts its stuff at the Engeman | TBR News Media

2022-06-16 08:29:01 By : Ms. Sarah Shi

SHOES! Cobbled into laced high-top boots, stilettos or platforms, they transport the wearer to another place, another time, even another attitude. As Cyndi Lauper’s lyrics put it, “The most beautiful thing in the world — SHOES!”

Kinky Boots isn’t just about shoes; there’s a much deeper message of acceptance that resonates in this musical with book by Broadway icon, Harvey Fierstein (Torch Song Trilogy and La Cage aux Folles), and music and lyrics by Cyndi Lauper who already was the beacon for diversity with such anthems as True Colors. Together they crafted this poignant, funny musical that radiates so much heart.

The show is based on the 2005 British film, Kinky Boots, which was inspired by a true story, the topic of a 1999 episode of the BBC2 documentary television series Trouble at the Top. 

This musical centers around a young man, Charlie Price, who is struggling to save his family’s five-generations-long shoe factory in the small town of Northampton, England that he inherited from his father. He forms an unlikely alliance with a drag queen, Lola, and they produce a line of high-heeled alternative footwear for men and take their kinky boots to the runways of the international shoe show in Milan. Along the way, Charlie and Lola realize they are not that different.

Kinky Boots premiered at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre on April 4, 2013. It received 13 nominations and 6 Tony Awards including Best Musical, Best Actor for Billy Porter and Best Score for Cyndi Lauper giving her the distinction of being the first woman to win alone in that category. It closed on April 7, 2019. 

Now the musical heads to the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport  which enjoys a tradition of breathtaking professionalism and Kinky Boots only adds to its repertoire of fabulous theatre.

Musical direction by Jeff Cox keeps festivities energized with the band conducted by Ben Kiley, on the night of this review, brilliantly taking on Lauper’s high-spirited score and driving it home.

The dynamic cast is intense and multi-talented, injecting passion and energy into the show. In the lead role of Charlie Price, Zach Hess is compelling, making us feel his dilemma, torn between trying to keep his father’s legacy alive or giving in to his fiancée Nicola’s insistence that they start a new life in London. Hess’ vocals are rich and powerful in such numbers as Step One, Take What You Got and blows the roof off the house with the impassioned Soul of a Man. Sofie Flores’ Nicola is a steam-roller, prickly and conniving; she selfishly conjures up a plan to get Charlie out of the factory.

Omari Collins dazzles in the role of flamboyant drag queen Lola whom Charlie met after a chance encounter. Collins glamorously struts his stuff in such numbers as Land of Lola, Sex Is In The Heels and sends chills with his showstopper Hold Me In Your Heart. He is riveting when he confides how he didn’t live up to his father’s desire that he become a proper boxer.

We are thoroughly immersed in the duo of Charlie and Lola who come together to create all those kinky boots and along the way realize that above all else they must accept themselves, a revelation that resounds in I’m Not My Father’s Son.

In the role of factory worker Lauren, who comes up with the idea of footwear for a diversified market, Lily Kaufmann is so much fun especially when she regrets her poor choices in men with The History of Wrong Guys and is deliciously animated lusting after Charlie. As factory worker Don, Demetrio Alomar exudes the right flavor of gruff and macho especially when he rebuffs Lola leading to a pivotal confrontation.

The ensemble is incredibly limitless, bouncing through the kinetic choreography of Natalie Malotke. The factory workers are appropriately gritty in contrast to the sizzling Angels. How the Angels are able to perform all those gymnastic dance routines in sky high heels is incomprehensible!

Under the direction of Igor Goldin, this production soars with vitality and feeling. The ingenious set designed by Kyle Dixon emulates the industrial feel of this small town factory with its steel scaffolding that glides into various positions as each scene requires and features a slide conveyor belt for spitting out shoes. Jose Santiago’s lighting design with well-placed spots that add pathos causes shivers and excitement just at the right moments. Sound design by Joanna Lynne Staub is crisp with all levels expertly set.

The shining stars are the thigh-high kinky boots in a rainbow of colors and bedazzled in jewels compliments of prop designer Kristie Moschetta. Kurt Alger must have had such fun designing costumes and wigs for this show. Every time Lola and her Angels appear we are awed by form-fitting confections in red, leather and animal prints with coiffeurs piled high or exploding in curls.

The finale, Raise You Up/Just Be, splashes joy over the audience and ejects them from their seats into an enthusiastic standing ovation. One can’t help but leave the theatre exhilarated. The Engeman has hit a home run with this mesmerizing production of Kinky Boots. Don’t miss it.

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport presents Kinky Boots through July 3. The 2021-2022 season closes out with the musical On Your Feet The Story of Emilio and Gloria Estefan from July 14 to Aug. 28. Tickets range from $75 to 80 with free valet parking. To order, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

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