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The touring production of Kinky Boots returned to the San Diego Civic Theatre (Mar. 9-12) with a new razzle-dazzle cast, including Timothy Ware as Lola, a captivating performer in need of sturdy stilettos.

In the song “Land of Lola” we hear, “Leave your expectations at the door, just let your eyes explore…” You see, Lola and the gang are still kicking down doors with glitter and kindness.

The National Tour of “Kinky Boots” Image: Matthew Murphy

While the musical hasn’t changed, the show’s themes of tolerance and acceptance have more urgency.

Inspired by true events, the Kinky Boots story has become a mainstream parable:  Charlie, owner of a struggling British shoe factory forms an unlikely partnership with Lola, a drag queen. They discover they are not so different after all.

The indie film Kinky Boots came out in 2005, and the musical took home six Tony Awards in 2013, including best musical. Harvey Fierstein (Hairspray, La Cage aux Folles) wrote the book and Cyndi Lauper (of “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” fame) won a Tony for her score.

Sound quality was surprisingly crisp inside the Civic, which is plagued by garbled touring shows. A mix of pop and ballads moved the story along, although several songs fell into that Broadway sing-yelling category.

At times, both leads, Ware as Lola, and Curt Hansen as Charlie, sounded raspy.  Hansen had difficulty in full voiced sections and his body seemed too stiff and stationary for the rock style.

Their vocals warmed in “Not My Father’s Son” with the two seated outside the shoe factory restroom. How timely.

Given the current political trauma and fits over transgender people using restrooms, the scene was a call to action, and the crowd’s enthusiasm continued to the resounding finale, “Raise You Up/Just Be.”

Fierstein and Lauper rewrote the uplifting song from “Just Be” to “Just Pee” to show support for the transgender community.

The irony of theater-goers squished together in endless lines for restrooms became a real-time parody. Somebody, please send Lola to Washington D.C.

The role of Lola is complex and designed to win hearts. Once an amateur boxer and bullied by his father, he lives happily on a stage in a gown, leading minions of drag queens.

Timothy Ware stars as Lola in the national tour of “Kinky Boots” Image: Matthew Murphy

Ware is a marvelous diva and actor. His Lola brought viewers to tears when singing “Hold Me in Your Heart.” When he transformed to timid Simon in a suit, you could hear a pin drop.

Cross dressing is nothing new in literature and theater, film and TV.  Gender has been fluid since the Ancient Greeks and Shakespeare. In opera, gender slides both ways. In Peter Pan, audiences expect a woman to play a young man. Hedwig and the Angry Inch rocked the Civic a few months back.

Kinky Boots fosters empathy because Fierstein’s script weaves average straight folks into the mix, and there are harmless zingers for levity. They are us. We are them.

Those unsure of the whole drag queen thing can follow along with Don.

We watched with glee as beefy chauvinist Don, (played by super standby Sam Zeller), became a respectful man.  He illustrated the principle of walking in someone’s high heels.

Rose Hemingway, as the dorky factory girl Lauren smitten with Charlie, shared her insecurities outwardly with the audience.  Charlie’s fiancé Nicola, played by Katerina Papacostas, was a textbook snob and all wrong for him.

By casting people of all body types and ages, viewers connected with the factory workers. The almost familiar group faced unemployment if they didn’t switch from boring men’s shoes to neon, bedazzled kinky boots.

Short, tall, and leggy, the corps of Kinky Boots had heads spinning with eye-popping costumes. Are those women or guys in those push up bras? Who cares?

The touring production’s finale of “Kinky Boots” Image: Matthew Murphy

Lola sang “The Sex is in the Heel” and there was plenty of grinding, yet the musical wasn’t’ overtly sexy. The kinky boots are insanely sexy, which explains the broad appeal.

Director Jerry Mitchell won a Tony for Best Choreography, but sequences were limited to high kicks and holy-moly splits, in part because of the heels.

The big wow scenes had six “Angels” and factory workers dancing on a conveyor belt, in the style of OK Go group.  Together, the unlikely comrades rocked the runway at the Milan fashion show.

Kinky Boots remains a story of friendship and acceptance.  Listen to Lola. Learn from Don.

Broadway San Diego’s 2016-2017 continues with Finding Neverland, Apr. 4-9, 2017.  www.broadwaysd.com

 

 

 

 

Kris Eitland

Kris Eitland

Kris Eitland covers dance and theater for Sandiegostory.com and freelances for other publications, including the Union Tribune and Dance Teacher Magazine. She grew up performing many dance styles and continued intensive modern dance and choreography at the Univ. of Minnesota, Duluth, and San Diego State Univ. She also holds a journalism degree from SDSU. Her career includes stints in commercial and public radio news production. Eitland has won numerous Excellence in Journalism awards for criticism and reporting from the San Diego Press Club. She has served on the Press Club board since 2011 and is a past president. She is a co-founder of Sandiegostory.com. She has a passion for the arts, throwing parties with dancing and singing, and cruising the Pacific in her family's vintage trawler. She trains dogs, skis, and loves seasonal trips to her home state of Minnesota.

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