Theater

Kinky Boots @ Al Hirschfeld Theater

"What can I do to allow you to keep existing on this planet?" - Lola

Kinky Boots

Book by Harvey Fierstein
Music & Lyrics by Cyndi Lauper

May 1, 2018

What do you say about a show that's been running for years? That's quite well-liked but definitely beyond its hey-day as an edgy musical? Where the story is predictable a mile off, but still leaves you grinning from ear to ear?

Kinky Boots is fun, I dare anyone to deny that. It's ritzy and glamorous and has just enough heart-felt-warm-fuzzies to make you believe it's been three hours well-spent. You'll leave the theater bouncing to the rhythm and actually believing that a boxing match and some catchy songs are enough to defeat bigotry and transgender abuse.

The truth of the matter is that Kinky Boots is Disney on Broadway. Of course there's precedent - the literal Disney productions of Lion King and Aladdin are spectacular and worth seeing - but my millennial friends and I have almost entirely concluded that Disney f*cked us up. The catchy songs and easy plots compelled our young minds to believe that everything works out when you try hard and believe in yourself. Oh, and if you're lucky enough to have a genie and a magic lamp, that makes things a million times easier.

Unfortunately, Disney is wrong. Not about the genie (that really WOULD make things easier, but about everything else).

In late 2016, I quit my well-paying job because of a traumatic experience at work. "I have a Masters degree from Oxford," I thought. "I'll be fine," I thought. I'd found my previous job after only two months, and interviewed for several more. I had excellent references, had started a business overseas, and with a smile and outgoing nature I was sure I'd find something in no time.

Eight months went by. Eight months of applying and networking and trying to get my foot in the door. 55 applications, countless phone calls, informational coffee meetings, resume and cover letter review with career counselors...

And only one interview. For a job I didn't end up getting.

Obviously, everyone knows that things don't always work out. Everyone has struggles, everyone has disappointments. But what "happily ever after" doesn't teach us is that the work must go on. The hardest thing about marriage isn't finding the girl with the glass slipper, it's about falling in love with the same person again and again, day after day.

Kinky Boots is a spectacle, and there's nothing like sitting in the front row when five queens start doing high kicks over your head (enter the lottery, front row seats are great!). The songs are catchy in a pop-music way that gets stuck in your head, and the costumes are so detailed you want a museum exhibit just for the shoes. J. Harrison Ghee and Kirstin Maldonado bowl you over with the force of their singing, and I hope it continues to run on Broadway for many years.

I also hope everyone who sees Kinky Boots and shows like Ru Paul's Drag Race realize there's still work to be done. Lola explains that 6 inch heels and a dress are like armor, but not every person who feels different has access to a fashion show and spectacular shoes. 75 out of the 102 transgender people killed in America in the last five years were black or African-American, and 2017 was the deadliest year for transgender people in the US.

I know there is a spectrum of gender identity expression, and that drag queens, transgender, and cross-dressers are not equivalent. All are labels (self-imposed or otherwise), and nuance is essential when speaking about the difference between individuals and Broadway show-stoppers.

Magnificent shows like Kinky Boots and its closing number "Raise You Up" are optimistic and uplifting, and they grant greater visibility to communities that have been maligned for so long. But it is just the tip of the iceberg. I hope audience members bring the message from the stage to their living rooms, kitchens, schools, and lawmakers.

The work is ongoing.

Kinky Boots
Al Hirschfeld Theare

Book by Harvey Fierstein
Music & Lyrics by Cyndi Lauper
Based on the Miramax motion picture Kinky Boots
Written by Geoff Deane and Tim Firth

Music Supervision, Arrangements, & Orchestration by Stephen Oremus
Directed and Choreographed by Jerry Mitchell

Starring:
J Harrison Ghee (Lola)
David Cook (Charlie Price)
Kirstin Maldonado (Lauren)
Daniel Stewart Sherman (Don)
Caroline Bowman (Nicola)
Marcus Neville (George)

Cast:
Callan Bergmann, Kevin Smith Kirkwood, Blaine Alden Krauss, Kyle Post, Charlie Sutton, Joey Taranto, Jake Odmark, Natalie Joy Johnson, Jennifer Perry, Adinah Alexander, Eugene Barry-Hill, Stephen Berger, Justin Colombo, Alfred Dalpino, Holly Davis, Jesus del Orden, Stephane Duret, Mia Gentile, Blair Goldberg, Jeff Kuhr, Cooper Lantz, Eric Leviton, John Jeffrey Martin, Julia McLellan, Michael Milkanin, Connor Mills, Christian Mullins, Nathan Peck, Robert Pendilla, Stephen Tewksbury

Creative:
David Rockwell (Scenic Design)
Gregg Barnes (Costume Design)
Kenneth Posner (Lighting Design)
John Shivers (Sound Design)
Josh Marquette (Hair Design)
Randy Houston Mercer (Make-up Design)
Rusty Mowery (Associate Choreographer)
D.B. Bonds (Associate Director)
Telsey + Company (Casting)
Jason Loffredo (Music Director)
Michael Keller (Music Coordinator)
Christopher C. Smith (Technical Supervisor)
Ashley Berman (Company Manager)
Glynn David Turner (Production Stage Manager)
Amuse Inc. (Associate Producer)
SpotCo (Advertising)
DKC/O&M (Press Representative)
Foresight Theatrical, Aaron Lustbader (General Management)

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