Event Reviews
Kinky Boots

Kinky Boots

Orlando Shakes • Orlando, Florida

Directed by Joseph Walsh

Musical Direction by Sean Andrews • Choreography by James Tuuao

Starring Anthony Festa, Jos N. Banks, Gracie Winchester

Take THAT, Governor Killjoy! Tonight, Orlando Shakes pulled off a fine piece of theater with the message that drag queens need comfortable footwear just like anyone else.

Set in the British rust belt city of Northampton, we meet Charlie Price (Festa). His dad has just passed on, and he’s come to take over the shoe factory his family has run for generations. But the factory falls on hard times, their shoes are no longer popular, the mines have shut down, and bankruptcy looms. Charlie gets lost one night in London and stumbles onto a drag show lead by “Lola,” otherwise known to his mom as “Simon” (Jos N. Banks). Lola complains it’s hard to find comfortable heels in large sizes, and a spark is lit. With the factory on the brink of collapse, Charlie sets out to make women’s shoes in men’s sizes and carve out a niche market in the Drag world. Now all he needs to do is convince his conservative staff to come along down the path of renewed profitability and maximum sex appeal. Can someone here teach Charlie sex appeal? Anyone?

The star here is, naturally, Banks. He has the right mix of sass and agility to rule the show. Festa plays his role very straight: he has the smallest reaction to Lola and accepts her quirks faster than the rest of the crew. The antagonist here is Don, (Zack Nadolski), the factory floor boss. He and Lola have a spat, and they decide to box to see who is more manly in the boxing ring. Lola was a pro, and whups him in a cleverly choreographed boxing scene complete with bells and ring announcers. Now the team is unified, and they struggle to create a new line of drag footwear and get it to the big shoe show in Milan. We don’t know if there’s salvation in Milan, but there is one of the biggest blowout finishes I’ve ever seen.

All the stock messages are covered here: Don’t look at a person’s outer impression, be open to change, work together. That’s a good base for anyone, but here the onstage pizazz rolls over any messages. It’s a large, complex show, and well-presented on Bert Scott’s rolling stage with an upper bridge and a rolling TARDIS-like box below. There’s plenty of music — it helps the show but doesn’t overwhelm. The cast with its dancers and fighters and cute kids and working class toughs and drag show flash gives us an exciting backdrop that never sleeps. And it shows that change is possible, but it often requires a good-sized meteor to strike your ego.

I don’t see why drag is a threat to anyone, but it sure scared the undies off of a certain segment of our leadership.

Orlando Shakes


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