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Thursday, February 5, 2015

On the Town with Buddy B: Kinky Boots

It was certainly the evening for boots -- kinky or otherwise -- in Times Square, where slush was everywhere and piles of frozen snow complicated crossing the streets during freezing temperatures and gusty wind chill.

I met my friend, actor/director Kathy Towson, at Don Giovanni restaurant on West 44th Street for an early, pre-show dinner before moving on to the 7 pm performance of Kinky Boots at the Al Hirschfeld on 45th.

Obviously, musicals about drag queens are the new family-friendly tribal-rock entertainment on Broadway. Just as with Priscilla, Queen of the Desert: The Musical, Kinky Boots had the audience on its feet during its final number, enthusiastically clapping in rhythm and stomping its collective feet.

Jerry Mitchell's choreography is a marvel of precision and pizzazz, and his direction and staging are marvelously clear-cut and impressive, especially a number on a conveyor belt. Cyndi Lauper, long a friend and major supporter of the LGBT community, has created music and lyrics that are wonderful, versatile and sensitive. Harvey Fierstein, who is what he is, has created a book based on the 2005 British comedy, featuring especially sharp dialogue. Well, the man wrote the book for La Cage aux Folles, so he's pretty much cornered the feel-good drag-queen musicals market!

The cast is uniformly wonderful now with Kyle Taylor Parker playing Lola as a hybrid of Tim Curry's sweet transvestite, Donna Summer and Whitney Houston. Andy Kelso rocks the house as boot manufacturer Charlie. Jeanna de Waal channels Cyndi as love interest, Lauren. And veteran Christopher Gurr's character gets more interesting and funnier the more the play lets his character break loose.

Cyndi herself had a club hit with the show's number "Sex Is in the Heel" and the show's final song, "Raise You Up," gets everyone to their feet. "Not My Father's Son" is especially poignant and "Hold Me to Your Heart" is throw-down-the-gauntlet diva fabulousness.

Set mostly in northern England, the whole, two-and-one-half-hour (including intermission) sha-bang climaxes on a runway in Milan. The storyline is, basically, about extended family and its triumph through shared love and humanity. That, I think, is the power and the glory of Kinky Boots. Oh, and the boots are brilliant, receiving their own applause. Tony well-deserved for Best Musical.




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