I generally steer clear of Broadway musicals — “fun” and relentlessly “spirited,” of course, but way too expensive and attended by far too many madras-shirt-wearing 60ish tourists. But a couple of weeks ago my significant other nudged me into getting tickets to Harvey Fierstein and Cindy Lauper‘s Kinky Boots, and we caught the matinee show yesterday afternoon at the Al Hirschfeld theatre. It’s a jolt and a hoot and a glittery wow — a 100% delightful adrenalizer and lifter-upper. For two hours-plus I surrendered to the whole emotional Fierstein-Lauper drag-queen fantasia, and I mean the whole swoony magilla of it. I clapped and laughed and cheered and tapped my feet and went out on a high that, some 18 hours later, has only slightly subsided.
A 4.4.13 review by N.Y. Times critic Ben Brantley summed it up nicely: “Provincial conservatives (Stark Sands‘ shoe-factory owner and his employees) meet their antithesis, a troupe of flamboyant drag queens (Billy Porter‘s Lola and her backup girls, the Angels). And the synthesis? Liberation and justice for all, along with the realization that though you can’t judge a book by its cover, a cover with sequins and feathers is usually better than a plain one.”
The first thing I said to my girlfriend when the first act ended was “it’s a really good musical, but it’s also a good book. Familiar but good. The singer, not the song.” Reconciliation with dad issues are very front-and-center.
Porter (the richly deserving winner of the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical) and Sands are as robust, soulful and pizazzy as Broadway leading men get, but my heart went out in particular to costar Annaleigh Ashford, whose sassy, spunky performance as a factory worker seems to blend with Lauper’s manner and persona — an amazing synthesis.
A bow and a salute to Fierstein (who was in the audience yesterday afternoon, which led to spontaneous applause during intermission…applause and a hundred cell phone capturings), Lauper and director-choreographer Jerry Mitchell.