Tall Tales: “Kinky Boots"

Buy tickets for “Kinky Boots” at the Denver Center here.

Tropes abound, but “Kinky Boots” chews them all up with unabashed pleasure and drops them all in your lap with a big fat smile. The sets fly. The choreography dazzles. The earworms crawl up inside your head and make themselves a home. The lighting and colors positively pop. The eyes feast.

The story is razor thin. You’ve seen it all before, right down to the drag queen with a heart of gold and a cliché message that changes everything: accept, tolerate, look in the mirror. The themes are drawn from a warmed-over episode of “Glee” mashed up with the outtakes of “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” while channeling the best parts of “Hairspray.”

More of Kinky Boots, courtesy, the Denver Center

More of Kinky Boots, courtesy, the Denver Center

These aren’t my comparisons. I’m treading (that’s a shoe-related pun) into a review of a wildly popular show where many have waded before. If you dig Broadway musicals and live within a day’s drive of Denver, you have no doubt heard the buzz and you likely won’t miss checking out this short stay of the touring company (through Sunday, Nov. 9).

If you wouldn’t ordinarily put a musical on your entertainment radar, I say go.

And here’s why.

In three words:

Kyle Taylor Parker.

Kinky Boots, courtesy, the Denver Center

Kinky Boots, courtesy, the Denver Center

As Lola, the ex-boxer with a penchant for women’s get-up, Parker is riveting. Every strut is sharp. His voice booms. It embraces each word, shoots it to the back rafters. (We sat in the balcony, did not matter a lick.) Parker commands each scene with so much style and presence that you are tempted to book a return trip so you can try and force yourself to watch what else is going on the swirling, intricate bits of choreography (both the multi-modal set and the remaining cast).

Lola, backed by his too-cool crew of “angel” drag queens, has to sell his message in a convincing manner and here, too, Parker shines. It’s Lola who has the solution that will save the dying shoe factory. It’s his chance encounter in a London alley with Charlie, the son of the family shoe business (est. 1890), that will open the business to new ideas, new styles, new colors, new levels of (drum roll, please) acceptance. Tired old industry meets the colorful new world and everyone learns to get along while wearing thigh-high red boots with pointed heels.

Parker, who was a member of the original Broadway cast, is unflinching. His sure-footed approach to the gender blender role is magnetic. Since he’s saving all the jobs and brightening up the drab factory floor, his main challenge is to overcome prejudice. Once the lessons are learned, it’s all disco-thumping happy to the big finish.

The conveyor belt dance number (“Everybody Say Yeah”) is a stunning piece of intricate movement as performers and machinery dance like an OK Go video (“Here It Goes Again”) on steroids. The songs, written by Cyndi Lauper, have a gritty, erstwhile vibe. The sets seem to move as much—and as fast—as the people. The supporting cast is dynamite. As Charlie, Steven Booth shoulders multiple weights—saving the factory, setting the course of his love life, and measuring the depth of his new bromance with Lola. Lindsay Nicole Chambers is perfectly spunky and earthy as factory girl Lauren and Joe Coots, playing the role of hard-nosed macho blue collar dude, makes a predictable transformation from oaf to sensitive new-age guy—and sells us on both.

“Kinky Boots” is for all ladies and gentlemen—and “all those who are yet to make up your mind.”

 

 

Mark Stevens

Mark Stevens

Editor’s note: Telluride Inside… and Out’s monthly (more or less) column, Tall Tales, is so named because contributor Mark Stevens is one long drink of water. He is also long on talent. Mark was raised in Massachusetts. He’s been a Coloradoan since 1980. He’s worked as a print reporter, national news television producer, and school district communicator. He’s now working in the new economy and listed under “s” for self-employed. Mark has published two Colorado-based mysteries, “Antler Dust” (2007) and “Buried by the Roan” (2011). Midnight Ink just published the third book, “Trapline,”and is under contract for a fourth book in the series, too. For more about Mark, check out his website.

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