Wednesday March 29th 2017

“Kinky Boots”- Milwaukee- reviewed by Lawrence Riordan

Kinky-Boots-Square-300Kinky boots deals with themes of intergenerational and hypo-transgender identity while remaining largely unsocial and apolitical, dealing instead with the personal and dramatic narratives of the two main characters: Charlie (Adam Kaplan) and Lola (J. Harrison Ghee). Charlie grows up in North Hampton with little interest in the shoe factory his family has ran for generations. So much so that he moves to London with his fiancée. His counterpart, Lola/Simon, was raised in London to be a boxer, grew up obsessed with shoes, but humiliates his father when he shows up for a fight one day in drag. When Charlie’s father dies unexpectedly, he returns to North Hampton to the faltering factory realizing he needs a miracle to save it. There he meets the drag queen Lola (J. Harrison Ghee) and his angels (Joe, Beauregard, Joseph Anthony Byrd, Sam Dowling, JP Qualters, Xavier Reyes, Sam Rohloff), and notices that their female boots are not designed to support the weight of men who are in drag. Inspired, Charlie decides to shift the company’s shoe line from upper-scale men’s shoes to a brand designed specifically for male cross-dressers over the objections of some of his workers, and fellow salesman, the thoroughly laddish Harry (Josh Tolle), who clashes with Lola. Together, Charlie and his production team rush to make the transition in time to save the company and present at a fashion show in Milan.

Hudson Loverro and Jaydeen Brown create the provenance for the rising action and narrative in their roles as the children Charlie and Lola with strong stage presence and charismatic opening performances. Their gorgeous, strong, but still children’s voices serve to convincingly ground their characters as the antecedents to Adam Kaplan and J. Harrison Ghee performances’ whose singing the lyrics and score (Cindy Lauper) with incredibly strong and consistent voices are the high part of the show. Kaplan’s character and voice is consistently strong, sincere, and earnest against a narrative which the director (Jerry Mitchell) effectively plays with large degree of seriousness but it is on its face largely camp. Ghee not only sings with an extremely strong and hard hitting falsetto voice, he also looks more glamorous and feminine than any man I have ever seen in drag costume (Gregg Barnes.) Likewise, his angels give excellent drag performances. He also delivers an admirably moving performance in a scene with his father’s (Horace V. Rogers) without disrupting the plays continuity, a role in which a shadowy Rogers demonstrates considerably chemistry with Ghee        kinky-boots-photo-1-459-459x306

The music is loud, passionate and fun, the narrative from the film by Geoff Deanne and Tim Firth is extremely moving, dramatic, and surprisingly apolitical if still highly topical. The set (David Rockwell) is authentic and speaks to the contrasting tone and arc of the play’s narrative. For while the set is dynamic, through each change the infrastructure of an older world remains intact in which a modern story is unfolding. Of-course, this is highly realist as (this is how Britain and much of Europe functions), but it does has direct bearing on this script. Charlie’s company, Price and Son, has gone from making high-priced, stylish qualities shows for gentleman to making a high quality stylish boots specifically for the use of drag shows and is preparing to show them off at a fashion in Milan all with corporate continuity. So, it serves the twofold purpose of evoking England and providing a concrete and logical background for the play’s narrative.

Kinky Boots plays through June 5, 2016th at the Milwaukee Center for the Performing Arts , located at 929 W. Water Street in Milwaukee,  in the heart of their “downtown”.

Performances are:

kinky-boots-photo-4-459-459x306 Friday, June 3:00pm and 8 p.m.

Saturday, June 4th at 2:00pm and 8:00pm,

and Sunday June 5th at 1:00pm and 6:30pm.

The show runs approximately 2 hours and 20 minutes with a 20 minute intermission. Tickets can be purchased by calling the box office at 414-273-7206 between 9:30 am and 9;30 pm on Friday, between noon and 9 pm and Saturday, and between 5 pm on Sunday or at http://www.ticketmaster.comor toll-free at 1-888-612-3500

Tickets range between around 26 to 132 dollars.

Not sure if this will be the same cast, but “Kinky Boots” will return to Chicago in August.marcuscenter

 

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