I caught a preview matinee of the new Broadway musical “Kinky Boots” on Saturday and enjoyed the old-fashioned showmanship of director-choreographer Jerry Mitchell, book writer Harvey Fierstein and the songs by Cyndi Lauper.
The musical doesn’t officially open until April 4, but I don’t think the reviews will mean all that much in the case of this very funny and very well-staged story of a British shoe factory that is saved by switching from traditional footware to boots designed for drag queens.
The show is based on a film from a decade ago that I saw but honestly don’t remember very well. It was basically a variation on “The Full Monty,” another mainstream British movie hit about working class people who find unconventional ways to make money in a harsh economic climate.
“The Full Monty” was turned into a successful Broadway musical (which Mitchell choreographed) and “Kinky Boots” does for nightclub drag queens what the earlier show did for male stripping — i.e. convince a middle-of-the-road theater audience that it’s an offbeat occupation worthy of a rousing song-and-dance treatment.
I caught the show with an older, straight-looking Saturday matinee crowd that clearly connected with “Kinky Boots” right away and was talking excitedly about what they had seen on their way out at the end.
The show queens who spend their time in Broadway chatrooms bemoaning the current state of the art probably won’t go for this tasty concoction — nothing seems to excite that crowd but Sondheim revivals anyhow — but people looking for stylish fun will have a blast.
Cyndi Lauper deserves kudos for writing a real show score rather than the aural rock sludge that Bono and The Edge handed to poor Julie Taymor for “Spider-Man.” The song score mixes moving ballads and “Wicked”-style anthems with dance tracks that power some pretty sensational drag numbers.
Reports of Lauper being very hands-on with the sound design are reflected in one of the best listening experiences I’ve had at a Broadway show in quite a while.
The leads — Stark Sands as the stressed young man who inherits the shoe factory and Billy Porter as the drag performer who comes to his aid — are both wonderful and Annaleigh Ashford shines in a juicy supporting role as a factory girl who pines for the boss.
It’s so nice to see a Broadway musical put together by people who know what they are doing.