Broadway: “Kinky Boots”

A couple of days ago a friend and I decided that we wanted to go see a musical on Broadway. It had been a really long time for both of us and we felt like it was a form of entertainment we weren’t really taking advantage of. The last Broadway show I had seen was when a friend was visiting me from Florida over a year ago, so I was due. My friend and I started at the booth on the pier where they sell discount tickets, but found the prices a bit out range, so we decided to head to Times Square (ugh) and go to a couple of theaters to see if better prices were available. Luckily when we went to the box office of the Al Hirschfeld Theatre we found some tickets at a decent price and bought them to see Kinky Boots that evening. We settled on this specific musical mostly because of word of mouth; the show had won the Tony Award for best musical, along with awards for Cyndi Lauper’s score and an acting award (moot for us, as Billy Porter’s understudy performed instead).

My friend’s husband joined us for the show and we took our seats looking forward to the experience. The theater is quite large and can seat a considerable amount of people. Our seats were balcony seats and a bit far back. We could see quite well, although it many times felt like the actors were playing to those sat on the lower level and never looked up to us once. The acoustics were quite good, especially when the actors sang, yet a few times spoken dialogue took extra strain to hear.

The show overall is a bit uneven in how it is laid out. Songs abruptly and sometimes awkwardly begin and the dialogue is a bit clunky. It is not like other musicals which find the right rhythm to segway from spoken word to song and back again, this is something that Kinky Boots doesn’t do very well. Additionally, when the actors speak they do so in a British accent (the story is set in England) but given the fact that the actors were not UK natives the accents were a bit all over the place it became a bit distracting (at one point one of the leads seemed to take on an Australian diction).

The story is identical to the plot of the movie on which the musical is based. If you’ve seen it, then you know the premise: a young man takes over the family shoe business which is going in ruins. In order to save the business the factory begins to produce shoes for a niche market: kinky boots that are extravagant and built to sustain the weight of men who work as female impersonators, drag queens. Through the advice and stylings of Lola the business is transformed, all culminating in Milan for an over-the-top fashion catwalk. The show takes a bit to get going. Half an hour in I was beginning to feel bored and became worried that the show was not that great, and I began to shift in my seat. Then the song “The History of Wrong Guys” began and a charming vibe began to infect the show for the better.

Overall the show is quite cute and entertaining. The acting (accents aside) was good enough to keep me and my friends entertained and the good will carried on through the end of the show. It was an entertaining experience. That said there is one problem with Cyndi Lauper’s score and songwriting, namely that while all the songs are cute and well written the musical lacks memorable tunes and any true show stopping moments. I’ve seen a few productions now on the Broadway stages and usually there is at least one song that I am humming on my way out the door, but not this time. All the songs serve the plot and the overall story, but they lack the infectious nature you want from stage productions. There’s no “All That Jazz” or “Defying Gravity” to be had from this production, and that is a shame. When the show eventually closes I would be surprised if it were ever to be revived, as it is not the most memorable show, it’s cute but leaves no lasting impression, in my opinion. I’m glad I went, but at the same time I have no plans to get the cast recording on iTunes. Rent, Avenue Q, or Chicago this is not.

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