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Stage Review: ‘Kinky Boots’, A High Energy Musical in High Heels
It’s here! In Shanghai! The classic tale of shoemaker meets drag queen to make stiletto boots so awesome they inspire song.
By Jul 17, 2018 Stage
Kinky Boots click-clacked its way onto the stage of Shanghai Culture Square last week in all its red sequined glory. First hitting Broadway in 2013, the show brought home 6 Tony’s including Best Musical and Best Score with a book by actor-comedian Harvey Fierstein and music by none other than Cyndi "girls-just-wanna-have-fun" Lauper. The musical tells the story of a friendship between Charlie Price (Lance Bordelon) a misfit trying to save his family's shoe factory and Lola (Jos N. Banks) a dynamic drag queen whose designs help him do so. That's basically it. All the rest is glitter, catchy beats, and over the top characters with hearts of shiny gold.

charlieandlolakinkyboots

Stranger than fiction, the musical's quick-witted book is based on the 2005 British Kinky Boots film which was inspired by the true events of W.J. Brooks Shoe Company’s venture into fetish footwear in late-nineties Earls Barton. To a contemporary RuPaul-loving audience, the show's "teachable moments" may not seem like groundbreaking stuff (men can be queens and still identify as men, sexuality is fluid, etc. etc.); but at its core Kinky Boots is what the best musicals are about: breaking prejudice, finding acceptance, and well-executed choreography.

lolaanddougkinkyboots

Early on, Kinky Boots was tasked with winning over the masses, since it was not as well received by critics as its contemporary Matilda the Musical. But sure enough after opening, the show became a fan favorite, eventually sweeping the Tony’s for Best Original Musical, Score, and Choreography; it also snagged three Laurence Olivier Awards.

It's the kind of musical that makes you revisit its soundtrack. Cyndi Lauper's new wave songs are infused with bubblegum sweetness — particularly the disco-dance numbers which make up 70% of ballads, the other 30% are soulful soliloquies rife with daddy issues (there's room for both). Lola, played by Jos N. Banks definitely has the best songs; the pace of the show takes off when she announces herself with Land of Lola, which also brings "The Angels" Lola's girls/back up dancers responsible for the production's most memorable numbers.

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The transformation of the Northhampton factory workers as they make and celebrate kinky shoes allow for the musical's most entertaining bits. Charlie Price, played with comedic flair by Lance Bordelon, is changed by his friendship with Lola; his demeanor shifts and his singing/dancing gets more bold and confident. One of his employees Lauren (played by Sydney Patrick) gives one of the best comedic performances as she experiences some changes with The History of Wrong Guys in midst of the production line.

And then there are the shoes, the one's they keep singing about, almost like another character coming to life at the end of the first act. The costume design in general is really something else, especially in the final scenes as the story culminates at a fashion show.

lolakinkyboots

Throughout there were a few slight sound issues, but overall it was easy to get lost in the Land of Lola, where sequins and song can melt away all troubles. With both its eccentricity and sincerity this performance of Kinky Boots fills those big, red shoes.


***

Tickets: Kinky Boots will be showing at Shanghai Culture Square until August 5. Starting at 380rmb, you can get tickets here .

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