Review: ‘Kinky Boots’ delivers its poignant message like a spoonful of sugar

by MIKE CHAIKEN

EDITIONS EDITOR

The thought seems like such a simple one for everyday life.

Accept everyone for who they are.

But as simple as it is, it’s not instinctual. And not everyone thinks to practice it… or wants to practice it.

That’s the genius of “Kinky Boots,” it offers up the philosophy of acceptance. But the stage musical doesn’t preach this message and ram it down an audience’s collective throats. The show, to invoke a lyric from the canon of Julie Andrews, delivers its missive with “a spoonful of sugar (to make) the medicine go down.”

“Kinky Boots” is such a fun and upbeat show, you’d hardly notice as you laugh with (and not at) drag queens and those who are different or laugh at those with bigoted, small-minded views. You’ll also hardly notice that you’re being indoctrinated into the importance of being broad-minded.

The show about Lola, a drag queen with joie de vivre and a particular preference for very red boots, is such a fun and energetic show. It’s playful. It’s outrageous. Just like Lola.

The songs by Cyndi Lauper are delightful. And Harvey Fierstein does a fine job of balancing message, music, and humor.

“Kinky Boots” is a spoonful of sugar; but it never gets saccharine.

I’ve seen the show now three times. And that means I’ve seen three different casts.

At the Fox Theater at Foxwoods on May 31, Kenneth Mosley had the joy of being Lola, the sparkplug that drives the story and the whole evening.

Mosley, physically is different than the previous Lolas I’ve see. Previously, the actors I saw were much more statuesque and physically imposing. This made the dichotomy of their female alter ego and male reality that much more dramatic.

Mosley, without heels, is smaller than many of his fellow male cast mates. But his innate talent is to ensure his physical size doesn’t reflect the size of his performance. Every time Mosley stepped on stage, much like his character, he demanded attention.

Mosley excels at the shows emotional moments such as the tour de force, “Hold Me in Your Heart” as well as the poignant ballad, “Not My Father’s Son.” And he is James Brown-like dynamite on explosive joy-filled numbers such as “Sex is in the Heel” and “What a Woman Wants.”

Connor Allston has the unenviable position as Charlie Price, the son of Price and Son, who has to save the shoe factory with his plan to construct “Kinky Boots.” He is a lead character; but, in a way, he isn’t a lead. Sometimes, Allston has to take a step back on songs so Mosley can assume center stage. This was the case in “Not My Father’s Son.” Sometimes, Allston has to command attention, such as he did on “Soul of A Man” and “Step One.” Sometimes, he has to hold his own against the force of nature Mosley, as he did on “Everybody Say Yeah.”

I’ve seen a couple of Laurens, the factory worker who develops a crush on her boss, Charlie Price. Karis Gallant had the most unique take on the role that I’ve seen. On the hilarious “The History of Wrong Guys,” Gallant seemed to physically embody some of the musical quirks of Lauper (who had a history of quirky, hiccup-ing pop music like “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” and “She Bop”). It was a fun take on the role that left many audience members in a fit of giggles. More importantly, she made it work within the context of the overall direction of the show.

Ashley North also was able to work a fine path as Nicola, the fiancé of Charlie. The role easily could be reduced to “materialistic bitch.” But North’s nuances help convey that her character is looking for an escape from what seems to be a dying town. She also is frustrated because she misses the man she loves, who she believes may be on a quixotic mission.

And what can you say about the Angels, the drag queen posse of Lola. Jordan Archibald, Derek Brazeau, Ryan Michael James, Andrew Norlen, Jacob Paulson, and Ernest Terrelle Williams were like lightning in a bottle each time they stepped on stage. Their dancing, in heels, was absolutely fabulous. Some of their moves made me cringe as I pondered the physical skill to accomplish their steps. Ultimately, hey were great fun.

“Kinky Boots” is one of those shows that lifts your spirits. And its positive message helps you feel a little bit better about the future.

I give “Kinky Boots” at the Fox Theater at Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket on May 31 3 1/2 out of 4 stars.

 

For more information, go to Foxwoods.com.

Kenneth Mosley is ‘Lola’ in the stage musical ‘Kinky Boots’ at the Fox Theater at Foxwoods Resort Casino June 1, 2.

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