THEATER REVIEW: “Kinky Boots”

Now hear this: Drag queen Lola and her “angels” are sashaying across the Civic Theatre stage in those seven-inch stilettos, providing amusement and amazement to locals – but only through Sept. 28.

Yes, it’s the Broadway smash hit musical “Kinky Boots,” beginning its national tour in our fair city. Based on a true story, “Kinky Boots” began as a 2005 film starring Chiwetel Ejiofor as Lola, the drag queen par excellence.

Producer Daryl Roth saw the film at Sundance and thought it would make a good musical. Harvey Fierstein was enlisted to write the book, and he brought Cyndi Lauper on board for the music. Jerry Mitchell directs.

Charlie Price (Steven Booth), son of a Northampton shoe magnate, moves to London with social climber girlfriend Nicola (Grace Stockdale), where he is saved from a mugger by Lola (Kyle Taylor Parker) and learns that she and her “angels” need sturdier stiletto boots for their London drag act.

When Charlie’s father dies suddenly, he returns to Northamptom to find shoe sales down and proceeds to fire staff in preparation for closing the store. Then he remembers Lola’s problem and puts on his designing hat.

You can guess the rest: this is a paint-by-numbers plot, obvious nearly from the beginning. But to be honest, “Kinky Boots” isn’t about plot. It’s about spectacle and a character being willing to stand up and declare who and what she is, and since in this case the subject is drag queens, the show stands (well, actually struts) or falls on its visual imagery.

And there’s plenty of that. “Kinky Boots” is a phenom. I’ve never seen such production values, starting with David Rothwell’s shoe factory set that looks like a converted cathedral, a two-level affair with many small window panes of varying hues, and a chandelier. Kenneth Posner’s lighting design goes from blood-red blinking neon to follow spots to a shell spot, along with the usual assortment of theatrical lighting.

Gregg Barnes’ costumes are – well, what do you think? Outrageous and great fun to look at. And those boots. OMG.

Director Jerry Mitchell won a Tony for his fantastic choreography – athletic, in-your-face, sometimes even jaw-dropping (could you do a back flip in heels?)

I’ve never seen such audience enthusiasm, either, nor heard such thunderous applause.

Parker is spectacular as Lola. She’s good to look at (even as her alter ego Simon), and this girl can sing.

Booth’s rather more uptight Charlie provides a great counterpoint to the force of nature that is Lola.

Stockdale is excellent as Nicola and Lindsay Nicole Chambers is charming and gets a fun song (“The History of Wrong Guys”) as Lauren, the girlfriend Charlie will end up with.

The downsides to this show are the too-loud music (much of which sounds alike) and the faux British accents that make comprehension a bit of a chore.

But if you’re looking for entertainment, this is your ticket.

The details

“Kinky Boots” plays through Sept. 28 at San Diego Civic Theatre, Third and B streets, downtown San Diego, California.

Thursday at 7:30 pm; Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 2 and 7:30 pm; Sunday at 1 and 6 pm.

Tickets: HERE.

To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.