These Boots Are Made for Broadway!

Broadway has a new crowd- pleasing musical: Kinky Boots, a generously entertaining collaboration between Broadway veteran Harvey Fierstein, who wrote the book, and Cyndi Lauper -- yes, that Cyndi Lauper -- who wrote the score, her first for Broadway. The musical has a good, high energy first act, then gets even better in Act Two.

Kinky Boots is adapted from a 2005 British movie which itself is based on a true story of a young man, Charlie, who inherits his father's struggling English shoe factory. Charlie ultimately partners with Lola, a drag queen, to produce footwear for drag artists in the hopes of saving the factory and the jobs of all his workers.Yes, there are reminders of other musicals -- La Cage Aux Folles and Priscilla Queen of the Desert both come to mind -- and much that transpires is predictable. Act One is a little uneven in spots; the drag numbers feel like they have been seen before and musically are fairly generic. But, all that said, Kinky Boots is a well-crafted, polished, totally enjoyable musical comedy, filled with funny lines, real emotion, wonderful performances, and several legitimate show-stoppers. The show's message of acceptance, while not new, is always a strong one worth presenting.

Fierstein's book effectively tells a good story with humor and a big heart, while Lauper's score is appealing and works well. I particularly liked "I’m Not My Father's Son," which reflects the father-son relationship theme that is a major part of the musical. Lauper has also written powerhouse 11 o’clock numbers for both stars (Stark Sands and Billy Porter, each of whom is outstanding -- more on them later), plus a finale that, as staged by director/choreographer Jerry Mitchell, is enormously satisfying, funny, and dazzling; it may be the best, most joyous finale we’ve seen in a musical since "You Can't Stop the Beat" in Hairspray. Mitchell has also staged a show-stopper in Lauper's catchy Act One closing song, "Everybody Say Yeah," replete with a creatively used treadmill on stage. Overall, Mitchell has given Kinky Boots a slick, witty, and colorful production.

Porter's performance as Lola is memorable. Porter has attitude and great comic timing; he makes Lola sassy, yet also vulnerable and heartbreaking. Porter knows how to deliver a song, which he does with great power in his late show highlight, "Hold Me In Your Heart," and his character has an underlying dignity that is always present. I certainly expect Porter to be a strong contender when awards season arrives. Sands’s Charlie, as the "straight man" in more ways than one, is a less flashy role, but he is superb. When things get stressful for him in Act Two and he has a mini-meltdown, culminating in Charlie lashing out at Lola, Sands manages to do it in a way that doesn’t turn the audience against Charlie. His remorse and self-realization that follow in his big number, "The Soul of a Man," along with his voice message to Lola, are moving and emotionally powerful. I can't forget Annaleigh Ashford, who scores big with her song and is a winning presence.

Kinky Boots tells its story in a compelling, witty, enormously entertaining manner. It has terrific performances, characters the audience can care about, a fast-paced, energetic, highlight-filled production, and genuine emotion. It really is old-fashioned musical comedy, and a show with those attributes is always welcomed on Broadway. - Jim Miller

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Mr. Miller is a former Showtime exec who has spent many an evening transfixed by the bright lights of Broadway and Off-Broadway.

Wolfgang's Vault

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