Sexy Wholesome Musical Fun with “KINKY BOOTS” Limited Run at SYDNEY

Kinky Boots AU

There are some stories in reality that are just stranger than fiction. Still, these strange but true stories can turn out to be very interesting (and potentially audience-drawing and award-winning) narrative when given a dose of fictionalization. Such is the case of WJ Brooks Ltd., a small-scale family-operated factory of men’s leather shoes in Northampton, England. On the verge of folding entirely due to stiff competition from cheaper imports they got a new lease on life thanks to entering a niche market by manufacturing fetish footwear for males. From this simple source came a Hollywood-backed BBC Films and Miramax feature in 2005 starring Joel Edgerton, which was seen by and inspired Tony Award-winning Broadway producer Daryl Roth. He bought rights to adapt the movie to the stage, resulting in the highly acclaimed musical “Kinky Boots”.

I’ve had the golden opportunity of seeing a presentation of “Kinky Boots” myself during my trip to Sydney last April. We watched one performance of its limited season run at the Capitol Theatre over at 13 Campbell Street in Haymarket, and what a thrill it was indeed! Not only was “Kinky Boots” an amusing and enchanting musical extravaganza. I felt that it also carried a highly positive “gay Aesop”. It’s certainly one production that will get its viewers thoughtful even as they’re entertained.

Much like the film and the true story that began it all, “Kinky Boots” begins with Charlie Price, the reluctant heir of sorts to the Price & Son shoe factory, which has made men’s shoes for four generations of family ownership but is now hard up. When Charlie’s father dies, he leaves his London home, job, and fiancée Nicola to return to the factory in Northampton to take over, though he is not so well received by the workers whom he knew from childhood and were critical of his moving away.

Inspiration hits when Charlie (tries to) help a woman being bothered by some drunks. He finds himself in a nightclub with the “woman”, actually a drag queen named Lola who headlines the club’s shows. Charlie notes how the drag performers put up with sexy women’s shoes that have easily broken heels, which combined with a suggestion from one of his factory assembly workers, Lauren, gives him a brainstorm of developing a niche line of women’s fetish footwear that can carry the weight of a drag queen’s male build.

To carry out this plan, Charlie must invite Lola and her “angels” to the factory as consultants, resulting in hilarity at some parts and some emotional drama in others. As Charlie and Lola find an unusual bond over their respective yet similar circumstances, Lola tries to garner respect or acceptance instead of derision from the macho factory employees, and Charlie tries to balance his family legacy with Nicola and his personal future (while Lauren pines over awakened feelings in one side), the tale is woven together by some of the snazziest show tunes I’ve heard yet, along with the most bombastic numbers in every important scene.

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“Kinky Boots” is masterfully directed and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell, a veteran of the stage though multiple big-name musicals. And he’s not the only major-league name there. The book was written by Hollywood and Broadway heavy-hitter Harvey Fierstein. Finally, to handle the music and lyrics to the musical’s amazing songs – described as a blend of club music and show tunes – Fierstein turned to a good friend of his. It’s none other than Cyndi Lauper, whom I’ve known since my childhood as a pop music contemporary of Madonna. As it turns out, “Kinky Boots” is her first go as a musical theatre songwriter, though you’d be forgiven to think that’s she’s been at it for years once you’ve heard the tunes.

And what a selection of songs they were. Not only were they appropriately evocative of their corresponding scenes but some are also very meaningful in terms of the “gay Aesop”, fitting coming from Lauper is an LGBT advocate and activist. But let’s not forget that these tunes are fun; “Land of Lola” and “Sex is in the Heel” are my personal favorite two, but they’re all wonderfully nice and kinky.

Sydney is one of Philippine Airlines’ several available destinations in Australia from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila to Sydney Kingsford-Smith International Airport. There’s nothing like a jaunt to one of the major global cities in the southern hemisphere to see the sights. Speaking of which, do note that new Broadway and West End darling “Kinky Boots” is only on a limited run at the city’s Capitol Theatre, so if that’s something right up your alley, best to make your travel plans before summer’s out. Consider The Travelpedia for all your future airline booking needs.

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