‘Kinky Boots’ at The Hippodrome Theatre

Kinky Boots is getting Baltimore’s Hippodrome Theatre year off on the, er, right foot.

Here’s a show so full of energy and charm that it doesn’t care a fig whether you think of it as chic or trashy. It sticks to its belief that “The Sex Is In the Heel,” and where there’s sex there’s sure to be ticket sales.

The Company of the 'Kinky Boots' Tour. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

The Company of the ‘Kinky Boots’ Tour. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

A full house on opening night in Baltimore proved that plenty of raucous enthusiasm remains for an old-fashioned show about drag queens in six-inch stilettos. Or maybe everyone just loves a good-time musical about a working-class factory that sheds its gender biases and joins the 21st century glam-rock party.

While the plot derives from a popular 2005 British movie (itself based on a 1999 TV documentary), this Tony Award-winning Best Musical heavily bears the likeness of its two celebrity co-creators: Cyndi Lauper and Harvey Fierstein.

Lauper’s songs tend to blast their messages to the world with disco-level exuberance. Put them in a dramatic framework provided by Harvey Fierstein (La Cage aux Folles) and just about every character in this show comes across as something of a diva. That is indeed remarkable for a play purportedly about sons reconciling with their fathers.

Maybe the only non-diva on view is Charlie, the affable Brit who inherits his father’s dead-in-the-water shoe factory in blue-collar Northampton. He is played here by Steven Booth, who has a nice voice and some agile dance moves (“Step One”). He helps Charlie sparkle and shine when given enough notice, especially after he sets his sights on resolving all inner doubts (“Soul of a Man”) as easily as changing one’s shoes.

No one can upstage a star-spangled drag queen, however, and in this play that is Lola all the way. Kyle Taylor Parker makes such a strong impression in the role that it’s a shock when he enters at one point dressed as a man. Still, it’s as Lola that Parker shines as Fierstein’s stiletto-heeled sage, with a quip and a comeback for every perceived slight.

 Kyle Taylor Parker. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

Kyle Taylor Parker. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

Baltimore audiences may well be talking about Parker’s bravura performance of numbers like “Land of Lola” for seasons to come. It’s his soulful “Not My Father’s Son,” though, followed in the last act by the explosive “Hold Me in Your Heart” that truly define the reach of his star power.

Charissa Hogeland is everything a dispensable fiancée should be as Nicola, who would rather Charlie pack it in and move to London with her. Waiting in the wings to soothe Charlie’s ruffled feathers is blonde working gal Lauren, brought joyfully center stage by Lindsay Nichol Chambers in the plucky solo “The History of Wrong Guys.”

Excellent support throughout is given by Joe Coots as Don, the stereotypical blue-collar male (not that there’s anything wrong with that), Mike Longo as Harry, and Craig Waletzko as George.

Also coming on strong are Lola’s gender-bending “Angels” back-up group, played by Joe Beauregard, Joseph Anthony Byrd, Sam Dowling, Sam Rohloff, Ricky Schroeder, Juan-Torres Falcon, and Hernando Umana.

The live pit orchestra led by Adam Souza, from the arrangements of Stephen Oremus, provides plenty of thrust for the direction and choreography by the show’s original Tony Award winner Jerry Mitchell.

Technical credits, including the Scenic Design by David Rockwell and the luscious Broadway Costume Designs by Gregg Barnes, all bring the professional look and feel of a Broadway sensation to the heart of Charm City.

Overall, the transition appears just as seamless as the onstage move from grimy East Midlands conveyor belts to the glitz-and-glamour runways of Milan. This show has ‘sole.’ 

Running Time: About two hours and 30 minutes, with one 15-minute intermission. 

Kinky Boots plays through October 4, 2015 at the Hippodrome Theatre at the  The France-Merrick Performing Arts Center – 12 North Eutaw Street, in Baltimore, MD. For tickets, call (800) 982-ARTS, or purchase them online.

RATING: FOUR-AND-A-HALF-STARS7.gif

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