A spectacular show, Kinky Boots has heart and soul laced-up by songs that sparkle like sequins throughout a golden storyline. It grabbed the audience at The Most Beautiful Thing In the World, a shoe fetish’s dream. In spite of all the glitz and glam, this show parades through your heart. It’s a reminder that life is about accepting others, even when we don’t understand, as the lyrics, so aptly state: “We can change the world, when you change your mind.” This show is not just kinky, it’s kinky-deep! Now this sensational presention is being extended to March 24th.

FATHERS AND SONS
The two stories that parallel each other, include that of Charlie, the son of a shoe factory owner, who leaves his rural town for London, England to become a marketing guru. Charlie, genuinely played by Graham Scott Fleming, never had much interest in boots, until his father unexpectedly dies. He soon finds himself overseeing the operation and responsible for the livelihood of all the factory workers. However, before he leaves London, he catches a flashy little show delivered by a group of drag queens, known as the Angels led by Lola. Despite what we know about angels, they can’t perform with sore feet and broken stilettoes. Charlie notices Lola’s limp and offers to fix her boots. He quickly discovers that Lola, like The Kinks song, is a man. To Charlie, this only means that the boots need to be even stronger to support their weight.

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Alan Mingo Jr (Lola) and the Angels
(Photo Credit: Cylla von Tiedemann)

However, Charlie’s simple, caring gesture changes his entire life. When he is told the factory is behind in payments and is not making enough sales, Charlie realizes that Lola’s vocation and lifestyle are the answer to his dilemma. He starts manufacturing boots, tall, lean and mean-kinky boots. Alan Mingo Jr. is admirably stylish, honest and brash, all at the same time as Lola. He reluctantly becomes Charlie’s designer, and the partnership between the pair cultivates a unique business, success story and relationship.

Despite their different backgrounds, both Charlie and Lola grew up feeling like they disappointed their fathers and are still trying to prove their worthiness. Songs like Take What You Got, and Not My Father’s Son indicate the pathos and pain felt deeply in family ties. This mutual quality creates a strong bond between Charlie and Lola, which uniquely doesn’t dissolve into the forlorn movie, The Crying Game and remains non-sexual. This show’s writers have created characters that defy their stereotypes, once they learn to un-learn. Mingo Jr.’s voice resonates in the Land of Lola and with a bluesy fervour in What a Woman Wants.

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Alan Mingo Jr (Lola) and Graham Scott Fleming (Charlie)
(photo credit: Cylla von Tiedemann)

Unfortunately, there were times when the British accents and slight echo in the Royal Alexandra Theatre made some of the vocals and words indiscernible in certain parts of the theatre, but it didn’t greatly diminish the spirit of the show.

NEVER JUDGE A BOOT BY ITS COVER
While Lola appears to be well-liked by most of the factory workers, Don, a big, lumbering, macho Brit who doesn’t like gay, transgender or cross dressers, constantly harasses Lola. They decide to duke it out. Lola’s father was a boxer, and Lola learned the sport. She/he throws this crazy fight, which is performed comedically in slow-motion to wild music and exaggerated moves. At the end of the day, Lola and Dan share a drink, but Lola believes he still doesn’t get it, so she throws him a business card that simply states: “Accept someone for who they are.” “Anyone,” she says, leaving.

AWARD-WINNING TEAM
Jerry Mitchell
, director and choreographer, does a magnificent job in creatively and resourcefully using all aspects of the stage. Four-time Tony Award winner and librettist, Harvey Fierstein, along with fourteen-time Grammy Award winner and 1980’s pop icon, Cyndi Lauper, rounds out the creative team.

Spotlights and small props like sliding bars and walls denote changes in time and place transforming the main set, which is an old shoe factory in rural England to glamorous runways in Paris. The boxing ropes for the fight ring was delineated by large bands of material wrapped around the legs of the Kinky dancers laying on the ground with their legs in the air. Sexy and economical!

At one point, the dancers are riding down the conveyor belts moving in different directions across the stage, turning the factory into a kind of burlesque show in celebration of their future success. Songs like Everybody Say Yeah and Sex is in the Heel pop with excitement.

Kinky Boots, Toronto Mirvish Productions
Kinky Boots, Toronto, Mirvish Productions

But like a prostitute in an elevator, life has its ups and downs. Charlie’s personal life hits a low point when his fiance, Nicola brings in a realtor and wants Charlie to turn the factory into condominiums, believing this will solve all their problems.

Charlie will now have money, and they can get married and move to the city to start new lives. However, Charlie has already turned a page in his life, and Nicola has unfortunately become a bookend. The business plan makes Charlie even more disheartened that his father did not have enough faith in him to take over the business, which has been in his family for four generations. The couple gets into a big fight. Nicola leaves in tears and leaves Charlie for good. Vanessa Sears is right for her role as a women in love, patiently waiting for Mr. Wrong.

Understandably, now the factory is all that Charlie has. He is so demanding and over-zealous about succeeding to the point of driving everyone in the factory crazy. All the workers walk out on him, as he is about to launch his new line of Kinky Boots at a fashion show in Milan. What’s worse, Charlie has a big fight with Lola over who is going to model the boots – the angels or professional models. Charlie offends Lola’s sense of self-esteem as a male, and as an entertainer. Lola storms out on Charlie. After all, Lola knows who he is, at his very core, and earlier quotes, Oscar Wilde’s saying: “Be who you are. Everyone else is taken.

GRAND FINALE
The bills continue to pile up, and it isn’t long before Charlie recognizes he is wrong. Lauren, a cutsy factory worker, played by AJ Bridel, inspires Charlie to stop being a heel and sets him on the right path. But as his muse and long-time co-worker, Lauren also finds herself in love with Charlie, which she expresses in a humorous song that is reminiscent of Lauper’s gumdrop appearance, and her warmth and sweetness. So, Charlie apologizes to everyone, but he fears it’s too late, which is well delivered in his vocal grieving of Soul of a Man.

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AJ Bridel (Lauren) and Graham Scott Fleming (Charlie)

One of the most hilarious, funny bits of Kinky Boots occurs when Charlie is left to model the thigh-high footwear himself, and suddenly trips and does a face-plant onto the stage in Milan. His runway strut resembles a newborn calf on his first legs, shaking and falling all the way. Luckily, the Angels rescue him skimpily dressed to the nines in sequins and satire with multi-colored, high-heeled boots.

Much to everyone’s surprise is the rest of the factory workers’ startling appearance decked-out in hooker boots and haute couture, gay París is an eye-full. Stuffing Don’s rotund legs into wild slinky boots, while still wearing his old plaid shirt and jeans received whistles, howls and catcalls.

The audience gave a standing ovation to the soaring strains of Raise You Up. It’s like the old saying: “You don’t know another man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes.” When it involves Kinky Boots, it’s an extraordinary and magical trip.

Alan Mingo Jr (Lola) and Graham Scott Fleming (Charlie) Kinky Boots, Toronto, Mirvish Productions
Alan Mingo Jr (Lola) and Graham Scott Fleming (Charlie) wearing Kinky Boots
(Photo Credit: Cylla von Tiedemann)
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