A&E

Review: Broadway’s ‘Kinky Boots’ kick up a spark at the Smith Center

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Kyle Taylor Parker performs as Lola during Kinky Boots at the Smith Center for the Performing Arts.
Bill Hughes
Jacob Coakley

Three and a half stars

Kinky Boots Through September 14; Thursday-Saturday, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday & Sunday, 2 p.m.; $39-$139. Reynolds Hall, 702-749-2000.

The first national tour of Broadway hit Kinky Boots—and the first national tour of any kind to start here—kicked off Saturday night at the Smith Center. Boots tells the story of unlikely business partners Charlie, heir to a shoe factory on the brink of bankruptcy, and Lola, a London drag queen with style and attitude to spare but not enough fashionable, sturdy footwear. When Charlie decides the future of his factory lies in serving this niche market, he goes all out to make it happen. All this is woven in with messages about acceptance (from fathers, from co-workers, from everyone), but while the emotional through-line of the characters is clearly (perhaps too clearly) laid out, it all feels a little anodyne.

'Kinky Boots' at the Smith Center

On the other hand, it’s being told in an absolutely superlative manner. This is a high-gloss, over-the-top spectacular. Cyndi Lauper’s solid score fits firmly in the modern pop vernacular of Broadway orchestrations—synths and a beat—with at least one beautiful torch song (“Hold Me in Your Heart”) and chorus numbers that present the perfect palette for Jerry Mitchell’s barn-burner choreography and staging, ending each act with numbers that dip Busby Berkeley in Technicolor latex. Greg Barnes’ costumes make Mamma Mia! look as drab as Oklahoma!

The performances match the costume for sparkle. Steven Booth’s Charlie is meant to be a bit dull (the better to show off Kyle Taylor Parker’s Lola), yet Booth’s plaintive, expressive voice shines in “Not My Father’s Son” and “Soul of a Man.” Still, the show belongs to Lola. Parker’s unflagging energy, sultry voice and eloquent body language are equally at home doing drag numbers, torch songs or showing the intense discomfort of a three-piece suit. Accompanied by her Angels (Darius Harper, Tommy Martinez, Nick McGough, Ricky Schroeder, Juan Torres-Falcon, Hernando Umana), she provides particularly acrobatic highlights during “Sex Is in the Heel” and “Everybody Say Yeah”—the OK Go-inspired first-act closer featuring a treadmill-like assembly line. And Lindsay Nicole Chambers is a delight as Lauren, the comic relief love interest.

The show ends with a message of acceptance and affirmation and monstrous applause. It is a sweet, simple musical that earned my affection, if not my devotion.

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