I saw *Kinky Boots* on Broadway on 9/11/18. It's been running for five and a half years, I've been meaning to see it, and finally got a cheap ticket. It seemed like the perfect bit of escapism to see on September 11th.
It's based on the 2005 film about a failing shoe factory in northern England that's revitalized by making boots for drag queens. Chiwetel Ejiofor played the drag queen, Joel Edgerton played the guy running the factory. The show won the Best Musical Tony that year - - it has a book by Harvey Fierstein, music and lyrics by Cyndi Lauper, and is directed and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell.
I was impressed with the show. It's very thoughtfully made, it has seamless transitions from speaking to singing - - I wasn't even aware of the transitions, which says a lot. The songs were used to tell the story and express the emotion. The first act closer was unbelievable, the high point of the show. Here's the original cast performing that number at the Tonys:
Mark Ballas was playing Charlie, the guy who runs the factory. I see from his bio that he's a pop star, but I'd never heard of him before (not such a surprise, I'm so out of touch with the pop music scene). He was very good, he has a nice voice and a strong presence. I saw an understudy playing Lola, the drag queen - - Blaine Alden Krauss. He was wonderful, really glowed and gave a glamorous and forceful performance. I often find that understudies do a great job. This guy is usually one of the six drag queens who are sort of a backup ensemble to Lola, and it must be gratifying and exciting for him to be in the middle of the spotlight now and then, instead of on the side.
My favorite moment in his performance was a costume handling moment that totally turned my crank. He wore a beautiful cream-colored chiffon gown for his show-stopping power ballad in the second act. It had elbow-length gloves and a single long chiffon panel hanging off the elbow end of the right glove. He tossed that chiffon panel into the air at pivotal moments in the song - - he did this Old Faithful maneuver about four or five times, and it never got old, it tickled me every time.
Something about the show didn't quite line up for me. I tried to put my finger on it through the first act, and I think it's the setting. Most of the show takes place in northern England and the accents of the actors all sounded a little labored to me. Nothing about the show really grounds it in England, it doesn't really communicate a uniquely English experience. The show would be much stronger if they had set it in upstate New York, or southern Illinois, or wherever in the US, a few hours away from a major city. I wonder if they ever considered that...