Review: ‘Kinky Boots’

Photo4 Kinky BootsTour - Photo by Matthew Murphy

For most lovers of musical theater, the arrival of Kinky Boots at Fair Park Music Hall is one of the signal shows of the season; for gay fans, it’s akin to a visit from the Pope. A six-time Tony Award winner, it tells the story of Charlie (Steven Booth), a straight man whose men’s shoe factory is about to go toes-up until he partners with fierce female impersonator Lola (J. Harrison Ghee), to create a line of hooker heels designed specifically for cross-dressers. Empowerment, glamour, a score by Cyndi Lauper and outrageous, uncomfortable footwear: Why, that’s all the makings of an instant gay classic.

Not so fast. While the show is a hoot and easy to like, it doesn’t set the stage on fire — it lacks soul.

Harvey Fierstein, who wrote the adaptation, has a strong touch in empowerment stories of just-be-yourself-itude, from Torch Song Trilogy to La Cage aux Folles; in fact, you could call this show La Cage aux Footwear: Folks try to live their lives out loud in the face of bigotry. But it’s not just La Cage it echoes; it conjured Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Evita, The Full Monty and even the recent film Pride.

The musical sticks close to the plot of the film, for good and bad. Charlie’s late-to-the-game homophobia seems shoehorned in to create a conflict that doesn’t need to exist, and the finale, while a kick-up-your-heels party, doesn’t really tie up the storylines. Lauper’s score, despite jaunty pop sensibilities, isn’t filled with lasting hits in the B’way songbook. The anthemic act-closing numbers (“Everybody Say Yeah” and “Raise You Up”) are lyrically uninspired, although they have the intended effect of sending you out on a high note. The show’s best song, the balladic “Not My Father’s Son,” should touch a lot of hearts, though the staging is so morose it drags. (The energy level overall could be notched up.)

But why play footsie with such quibbles? You can choose to sit with a blank stare on your face and nitpick, or just sling back in your seat and have fun. There is, ultimately, something deeply satisfying about watching well-heeled Dallas audiences cheer on cross-dressers; you’d have to call it a remarkable feat.

Runs through March 8 at Fair Park Music Hall, 901 First Ave. DallasSummerMusicals.org.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 27, 2015.