All the glitter intact as heartfelt ‘Kinky Boots’ returns on its first tour

SHARE All the glitter intact as heartfelt ‘Kinky Boots’ returns on its first tour

By Catey Sullivan | For the Sun-Times

It’s won six Tony awards since it first stepped into town in 2012, but the flashy, sassy “Kinky Boots” has lost none of its heartfelt strut. Winningly scored by pop songstress Cyndi Lauper and helmed by director-choreographer Jerry Mitchell, the story of an shoe factory on its last legs and the fabulous drag queen who becomes its salvation is a jubilant, bedazzled ode to celebrating your true colors.

Harvey Fierstein’s book remains a deft balance of cheekiness and sincerity, and the cast strides that balance with the skill and apparent joy of circus aerialists. There are big emotions on display, and they feel sincere throughout.

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‘KINKY BOOTS’ HIGHLY RECOMMENDED When: Through July 26 Where: Cadillac Palace, 151 W. Randolph Tickets: $25-$108 Info: (312) 775-2000; www.broadway inchicago.com Run time: 2 hours and 30 minutes with one intermission

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The story unfolds in a working-class factory town, as Charlie Price (Steven Booth) reluctantly inherits the shoe factory that’s been in his family for generations. Charlie’s father was passionate about wingtips. Charlie, not so much. It’s not Charlie who is the heart of the show, however. That role belongs to the fantabulous Lola (Kyle Taylor Parker), a self-described drag queen who can rock a pair of weapons-grade stilettos and deliver a knockout punch to a raging hetero homophobe in the boxing ring, should the need arise. (It does.) Parker is a dazzler of a female illusionist, as well as a dancer of aggressive precision and attitudinal grace. Lola doesn’t just command the stage, she rules it with the beauty of Beyonce and the authority of a four-star general.

It’s a sign of Parker’s range that Lola remains riveting minus the vogue-ing dance moves and sequined backup squad of singing, dancing “angels” who make the Victoria Secret crew look like rank amateurs. With the power ballad “Soul of a Man,” Lola’s alone on stage with nothing but a pool of light and an increasingly intense aura of emotion. The song could crack a heart of stone.

Unlike Lola, Charlie starts out allowing himself to be pulled in all directions, and Booth is appropriately rudderless as a man at the mercy of family-induced guilt and the demands of his chilly girlfriend. His evolution is as compelling as it is complete. With t“Not My Father’s Son,” Parker and Booth deliver an achingly bittersweet, conflicted ode to the men who raised them. And with “Soul of a Man,” Booth unleashes truly mighty vocal pyrotechnics, nailing the catharsis that follows profound personal revelation.

The supporting cast is equally fine. In the hilarious “The History of Wrong Guys,” Lindsay Nicole Chambers taps into that ancient, universal sisterhood of women who make bad decisions about men. And as a belligerent machismo goober, Joe Coots first makes you want to punch him and then grows into someone you want to hug.

If corners have been cut for this first national tour, it isn’t apparent. Costume designer Gregg Barnes’ frocks and shoes are worthy of Vegas. Scenic designer David Rockwell credibly takes the action from factory floor to Milan catwalk. And when that factory becomes an impromptu runway/stage for Lola and the angels in “The Sex is in the Heel,” odds are you will be joyously tapping your toes in agreement. Even if you’re wearing orthopedics.


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