Kinky Boots stars Joseph Anthony Byrd (second from left) as Lola (photo by Curtis Brown Photography)
Based on a 2005 film of the same name, Kinky Boots, written by Harvey Fierstein with music and lyrics by the Cyndi Lauper, has found new and exciting life onstage since 2012. And, the North Carolina Theatre production, directed and choreographed to perfection by Nathan Peck, proves that this story is still relevant, still important, and still just as heartwarming as ever.
As the curtains open on a dingy shoe factory, Price & Son, in England, viewers are quickly introduced to Young Charlie Price (Lawson Walker) and, soon after, his adult version (Graham Scott Fleming). What’s made abundantly clear from the alluring opening number is that Price & Son is a family tradition, one that young (and older) Charlie can’t seem to escape, despite his desire to do so. In fact, the opening number showcases the many ways in which shoes infiltrate Charlie’s life, from his father’s insistence that Young Charlie one day take over the business to older Charlie’s champagne-tastes fiance, Nicola (Grace Stockdale), who demands expensive shoes for her impending wedding day.
As Charlie’s trajectory plays out in brief but important flashes, so does that of another young man, Simon. Growing up in London, Simon, like Charlie, has a life that’s been infiltrated by shoes. But, in Simon’s case, it’s his love of and passion for wearing women’s shoes that impacts him and, later, when the audience meets Simon again, he is a fabulous drag queen named Lola (Joseph Anthony Byrd).
And, while it may seem that these two would never cross paths, things change when Charlie’s father passes away, leaving Charlie to man the shoe factory. It’s then that he meets Lola and her crew of sexy, sultry drag queens and discovers that designing shoes for people like Lola might just be what saves the family business after all.
Right from the start, Byrd’s Lola is fabulously over-the-top and just plain fabulous, the perfect balance to Fleming’s (mostly) resolute, straight-laced turn as Charlie. As the script plays out, this duo quickly discovers that they have much more in common than meets the eye and that they’ll impact each other’s lives and worlds in more and more amazing ways than they ever thought possible.
NCT pulls out all the stops when it comes to telling this tale in the biggest, boldest way possible. Featuring dazzling costumes by Gregg Barnes; killer, high-kicking choreography, and a snazzy vibe throughout, this production is fun and fully-energized from start to finish. Two strong leads and a host of colorfully-portrayed supporting characters, including Sydni Beaudoin’s hilarious Lauren and Joe Coots’ endearing portrayal of everyman Don, add to the enjoyment. However, the softer, more poignant moments are also given plenty of room to make their impact, especially Byrd’s soulful “I’m Not My Father’s Son” and “Hold Me In Your Heart” numbers.
And, as the story unfolds to its hopeful, uplifting ending, the message couldn’t be clearer. This is a story about self-love, self-acceptance, about extending those things outward and watching the world change as a result. It’s a story about solidarity amongst people- a message that this production perfectly embodies, making it one that “ladies, gentlemen, and those who haven’t decided yet” are sure to love.
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