Reinventing the heel

Posted on 31 May 2013 at 9:45am

‘Kinky Boots,’ Cyndi Lauper’s B’way debut musical, high-kicks it up a notch

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STILETTO CHIC | The cast of Broadway’s latest hit, ‘Kinky Boots’ rises on a disco-beat-influenced score by gaydom’s So Unusual One, Cyndi Lauper.

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor

Strange to think of it, but the era of the formal book-musical with original score is almost a thing of the past.

Screen shot 2013-05-30 at 11.23.40 AMBroadway is littered with revivals, jukebox musicals and even shows that steal much of their scores from the already-in-existence movie version (thank you, Disney). Oh, there are still some that come down the pike, like The Book of Mormon, but they seem rare — rarer still, good ones.

So it’s a treat to find an “original cast recording” of the kind I grew up with, where the lyrics are printed on liner notes and you can sing along to and discover anew. Like Lerner & Loewe. Rodgers & Hammerstein. Webber & Rice. Jerry Hermann. And Cyndi Lauper?

The Unusual One isn’t the first name that comes to you when you think “Broadway,” but the ’80s pop princess — who matured into one of gaydoms reigning divas — has never been just about one kind of music. She’s recorded an album of Great American Songbook standards, as well as ballads, dance hits and now the eclectic sounds of a contemporary musical.

And because its Cyndi, in a show penned by Harvey Fierstein and mounted by gay producer Hal Luftig, you expect queer appeal.

Kinky Boots, this season’s must-see show (it’s been nominated for 14 Tonys, and hotly favored for most of them), puts an entrepreneurial shoemaker (Dallas native Stark Sands) in desperate need for a new market to sell his wares. Enter Lola (Billy Porter), a drag queen in search of footwear big enough for her man-sized hooves.

Lauper’s challenge is to combine Priscilla Queen of the Desert with Billy Elliot: Half discotheque dance beats, half industrial England doldrums. And of course, she succeeds. The first song to really get your toe tapping,

“Land of Lola,” could become anthemic in drag clubs, with lines like I’m your cocoa-butter bitch / not just cookie cutter kitsch, while “Step One” has the infectious rhythm of radio-friendly boy-band pop.

Not every number has a great hook, but remember: This is a musical, not a pop CD, and has some storytelling to do. In that way, the message of acceptance (especially on “Not My Father’s Son”) is just as impressive as the beats. As generations of theater queens will eventually know, these Boots are made for rockin’.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 31, 2013.

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