Review of Kinky Boots by J. Michael Atchue

KB logoKinky Boots Tramples Over Substance and Nuance in Favor of Style and Panache by J. Michael Atchue, Student Critic.

 

“Never regret thy fall,” once wrote Oscar Wilde, “ O Icarus of the fearless flight, for the
greatest tragedy of them all is never to feel the burning light.” Wilde’s opinion of the mythical
Greek character was that his greatest error was not succumbing to hubris-but instead failing to
achieve greatness in spite of an intense effort. It is therefore fitting that Wilde himself is quoted
in the Hanover Theatre’s produ ction of Kinky Boots, a dazzling spectacle that tragically fails to
engage the audience with its largely humdrum characters and hackneyed storyline.
Whatever reservations one might feel towards the show’s narrative backbone, Kinky
Boots offers up a splendidly well-oiled special effects machine of seamless transitions, creative
sound design, memorable songs, and a colorful rainbow of bright lights and vibrant sets. This
exhilaratingly flashy and fun display of the Hanover Theatre’s extravagant visual flair as well as
the beauty of Cyndi Lauper’s music would be enough to make Kinky Boots worth seeing if not
for the fatal errors within Harvey Fierstein’s script.
The cast of Kinky Boots is, with exceptions, a smorgasbord of clearly gifted actors vainly
trying to animate stale, one dimensional characters. Adam Kaplan does his best as Charlie Price,
a frustrated businessman trying to prevent his shoemaking company from going under, but he
can’t change the fact that his character is a bland Justin Trudeau doppelgänger with all of the
Canadian Prime Minister’s dashing good looks, half of his brains, and none of his graceful
leadership capabilities. His witty co-worker, Lauren, is portrayed with great enthusiasm and
humor by Tiffany Engen, but her sadly limited time on stage is too often dedicated to
participating in a cliched love triangle with Price and his fiancée Nicola, played by Charissa
Hogeland, a whiny and selfish businesswoman who everyone knows will, thank God, be dumped
in the end. But it is J. Harrison Ghee who is the real star of the show, the man who effortlessly
brings the well-rounded, fully realized character of Lola to life. Ghee, playing a transvestite
haunted by an abusive childhood, exudes a wonderful liberality and vigor that enraptures the
audience’s attention and love every glorious time he struts on stage.
The uneven characterization seen in Kinky Boots translates into an awkwardly
unbalanced story. While Fierstein’s script earns high marks for promoting tolerance of the
LGBTQ community, his honorable social stance does not justify a poorly paced and predictable
narrative. The play hardly ever finds its footing, either rushing through characterization or
occasionally spending far too long on extended musical numbers that, while initially delightful,
tediously overstay their welcome. Just about every twist and turn in the plot can be easily
anticipated from the show’s promising opening to its overdue finale, further diminishing the
potentially elating experience that Kinky Boots could offer with a stronger narrative backbone.
But just as Ghee’s performance as Lola is the highlight of the show’s cast, the scenes revealing
his character’s moving backstory are beautifully poignant masterworks that elevate the otherwise
weightless script.
It is truly a shame that Kinky Boot’s sporadic bursts of joy are overwhelmed by horribly
mundane characters and a dull storyline. The music is certainly worth listening to and happily
can be found online. Yet enduring two and a half hours of cardboard characters and a lazily
crafted story is too high a price to pay for witnessing the Hanover Theatre’s visual talents that
are certainly put to better use in superior productions.

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