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Kinky Boots ~ Kennedy Center

Jordan Wright
June 21, 2016
Special to The Alexandria Times
 

‘Kinky Boots’ National Touring Company. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

‘Kinky Boots’ National Touring Company. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

A beacon of hope shone down mightily onto the stage at Kennedy Center’s Opera House this week.  It was more than hope, really.  It was a balm for the soul of Orlando’s LGBTQ community and their friends and supporters around the world.  A clearing of the clouds, if you will – if only for a few hours.

In this timely story of tolerance, love and self-acceptance, Lola (J. Harrison Ghee), a black drag queen from the seedier side of London, performs with her chorus line of queens.  When, in a stroke of fate, she meets Charlie (understudy, Adam Kaplan, who appeared to be struggling in the role), the reluctant scion of a fourth generation shoe factory in the hinterlands, she schools him in ‘dragdom’ and what it means to be absolutely fabulous in six-inch high-heeled boots.  When she alludes to the challenge of strutting her stuff in ladies’ boots, ill-designed to support the weight of a man, Charlie becomes sympathetic to her plight.

(l to r) Macho Don (Aaron Walpole) the floor manager and George (Jim J. Bullock). Photo by Matthew Murphy.

(l to r) Macho Don (Aaron Walpole) the floor manager and George (Jim J. Bullock). Photo by Matthew Murphy.

Intrigued by Lola, soubriquet “Kinky”, and the idea of making boots for a niche market, he offers her the job of Head Designer at his factory.  Unfortunately, it’s run by a crew of narrow-minded blue collar workers.  Lola, bullied by the male workers tries to fit in by wearing suits instead of dresses – a transition that falls flat.  Hoping to present Lola’s racy designs at the shoe show in Milan, the workers, especially the females of the crew who are enamored of Lola’s femininity, get on board.  Macho Don (Aaron Walpole) the floor manager and George (Jim J. Bullock) the numbers cruncher remain reluctant.  And therein lies the rub.

Contrary to what you may imagine, the romance in Playwright Harvey Fierstein’s six-time Tony Award winning musical is not between Charlie and Lola, but with Charlie’s fiancée, Nicola (Charissa Hogeland), who has grander ideas for their future in real estate development, and one of his employees Lauren (Tiffany Engen) who believes in his dreams.  Guess who wins out.

Jerry Mitchell, who received the Tony Award for his choreography in the original Broadway production, both directs and choreographs this production, along with famed Costume Designer Gregg Barnes, Scenic Designer David Rockwell and Lighting Designer Kenneth Posner.

Lola (J. Harrison Ghee) and her Angels in ‘Kinky Boots.’ Photo by Matthew Murphy.

Lola (J. Harrison Ghee) and her Angels in ‘Kinky Boots.’ Photo by Matthew Murphy.

Ghee is a force of nature.  Fierce and fabulous with a leggy, Amazonian frame that complements an astonishingly versatile voice, he delivers a show-stopping performance tinged with raw emotion.  The duet with Kaplan in “Not My Father’s Son” is especially spell-binding.  And Engen too, will steal your heart with her solo, “The History of Wrong Guys”.  And should you ever question what drives men wild, Lola (aka Simon) sets us straight in “Sex Is in the Heel”, adding, “Red is for sex, and sex shouldn’t be comfy.”  Got it?

‘Kinky Boots’ National Touring Company. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

‘Kinky Boots’ National Touring Company. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

Through it all, pop diva Cyndi Lauper’s show-your-true-colors score is as sustaining as a hummingbird’s heartbeat and her emotionally-stirring ballads and electrifying show tunes add up to a winning night of crazy, funny, wonderful theatre.

Highly recommended for, according to Lola, “Ladies and Gentlemen, and those who have yet to make up their minds.”

Through July 10th at the Kennedy Center, 2700 F St., NW, Washington, DC.  For tickets and information call 202 467-4600 or visit www.Kennedy-Center.org.

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