Broadway Across Canada touring show
Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium,
February 14 to 19, 2017
Tickets $30 to $180
Review by GRAHAM HICKS, Hicksbiz.com
Watch out Edmonton!
If the whole city starts rockin’ and rollin’, dancin’ down the streets and prancing about in outrageous sequinned boots, it’s because the energy and spirit of Kinky Boots exploded out of the Jubilee Auditorium and is cascading across Edmonton.
Not since Hairspray has a touring Broadway show been this much fun, so high calibre and so socially relevant. Kinky Boots is a bodacious blend of sassiness, social message, social relevance, an intriguing story-line, great songs (thank you Cindy Lauper), astounding choreography and bigger-than-life talent.
How did this plot get dreamed up? Its bones are about a reluctant heir of a dying English shoe-making factory, who accidently discovers a niche market for drag-queen boots. But for the business to survive, the boots have to be a big hit at an international shoe fashion show in Milan.
Its flesh is in the collision-then- fusion of the creative, crazy drag-queen world of the heroine Lola (without whom the reluctant heir Charlie is doomed to fail) and the traditional social values of the shoe factory workers.
There’s tension, drama, reconciliation then deep friendship formed between Lola and Charlie, between Lola’s Angels drag-queen troupe and the factory workers, between Lola and the factory workers’ foreman Don.
There’s a universal theme – accept others as they are – that often pushes its way to the show’s surface. That theme is the sinews of the show, pushing it forward at every opportunity.
In the end, the drag queens save the day. As per any bright, shining American musical, in a rollicking finale, everybody lives happily ever after.
The upside of touring Broadway shows like Kinky Boots: After years of production, all the kinks have been worked out, and they are as flawless as flawless can be.
The downside: The cast, performing the show night after night, month after month, finds it more and more difficult to summon up the energy and fun to do the production justice.
This version, with seven shows at the Jubilee Auditorium in Edmonton from Feb. 14 to Feb. 19, 2017, seems to be at the top of its touring game - super-polished, yet still super-charged with the energy and enthusiasm of a cast very much in love with what is happening on stage.
Leading the charge in this show is J. Harrison Ghee as Lola. One question was on everyone’s lips as they left opening night on Tuesday. Why isn’t J. Harrison - a great actor with an emotional and musical range as wide as the prairie open sky – a super-star? All his songs were show-stoppers. He carries this show on his back as if it were light as feathers.
Curt Hansen as Charlie the reluctant factory owner is not far behind, but his co-lead role is more of a foil to Lola than a brash personality unto himself. The story, however, is ultimately about Charlie’s transformation, thanks to Lola, her drag queens and his factory workers, from indifference, aimlessness and passivity to action, confidence and the discovery of his own inner passion.
Rarely does a Broadway travelling show come along that leaves its audience on such a natural high – exuberant with the energy, passion and joy of the show, and then, as the emotional high subsides, leaving much to think about - cultural clashes, snobs versus yobs, father-son relationships, male-female definitions (“Ladies and gentlemen, and all those undecided,” says Lola.)
The dancing is the final icing on this splendid cake. Lola’s six drag-queen Angels are dancers of the highest order. And when the factory workers break into dance with them in the shoe factory number – using machinery as props – it’s yet another highlight of a show without peers as far as highlights go.
Kinky Boots: If you love the rush of superb musical theatre, don’t miss it!!!