Triangle Arts and Entertainment – News and Reviews Theatre Dance Music Arts

Kinky Boots at DPAC Is an Absolute Must-See

J. Harrison Ghee (center) repeats his crowd-pleasing performance as Lola in the 2016 encore presentation of Kinky Boots at DPAC (photo by Matthew Murphy)

J. Harrison Ghee (center) repeats his crowd-pleasing performance as Lola in the 2016 encore presentation of Kinky Boots at DPAC (photo by Matthew Murphy)

The glittery, high-heeled national tour of 2013 Broadway hit Kinky Boots has returned to the Durham Performing Arts Center for an eight-show run, from Sept. 13th through the 18th. The musical is based on the 2005 British film , directed by Julian Jarrold, with a screenplay by Geoff Deane and Tim Firth, and starring Chiwetel Ejiofor. The film was loosely based on a true story, originally told in the 1999 BBC documentary, Trouble at the Top: The Kinky Boot Factory, which focused on a century-old shoe factory’s struggle for survival.

Successful productions of the musical have been launched in Toronto, London, South Korea, Australia, and Sweden. The show features Tony Award®-winning music and lyrics by GRAMMY® winner Cyndi Lauper and a Tony-nominated book by Harvey Fierstein, author of 1982’s Torch Song Trilogy and two musical mega-hits: 1983’s La Cage aux Folles and 2012’s Newsies.

The original Broadway production was directed and choreographed by Tony-winning director-choreographer Jerry Mitchell, best known for co-mounting Broadway showstoppers The Full Monty, Hairspray, La Cage aux Folles (2004 Revival), Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Legally Blonde, and the Gloria Estefan musical On Your Feet!, currently running at the Marquis Theatre in New York City.

Since its Broadway debut at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre in April of 2013, Kinky Boots has sashayed down the catwalk for more than 1,430 performances and is still going strong. It was nominated for an impressive 13 Tony Awards in 2013 and took home six (Best Musical, Best Original Score, Best Choreography, Best Leading Actor in a Musical (Billy Porter as Lola), Best Orchestrations, and Best Sound Design. The cast recording won Best Musical Theater Album at the GRAMMY Awards in 2014.

DPAC is a perfect venue for this piece, with 2,700 seats (which will likely fill up for this run), nearly 5,700 square feet of stage, 370 lighting instruments, and a state-of-the-art sound system. Techie nerds can check out DPAC‘s facility specs here.

Okay, enough of that. Here’s the “T“:

J. Harrison Ghee (center left) as Lola and Adam Kaplan as Charlie and must join forces to produce a revolutionary product (photo by Matthew Murphy)

J. Harrison Ghee (center left) as Lola and Adam Kaplan as Charlie and must join forces to create a high-heeled boot for men and revive a failing Northamptonshire shoe factory (photo by Matthew Murphy)

This show is extremely fun — some of the most fun that I’ve ever had seeing a show. Kinky Boots is beautifully designed. Scenic designer David Rockwell strikes an important balance between the eleganza extravaganza that is Lola’s nightclub and the drab shoe factory. The set is highly mobile and deceptively simple. If you blink, you’ll miss a set change. I’ve never seen a show transition from scene to scene so quickly and smoothly.

Gregg Barnes’ costumes are perfection, suited to character and setting, and are also quick-change friendly. Grubby gear and fabulous frocks combine with Josh Marquette’s hair and Randy Houston Mercer’s makeup to construct a world where drab meets drag. Though a couple of very minor hiccups were noticed during Tuesday’s opening night at DPAC, John Shivers’ sound is well-mixed and gives much-deserved attention to Ryan Fielding Garrett’s pit, complete with nine talented rockstars. Thanks to orchestrator Stephen Oremus, the 1980s-inspired Cyndi Lauper-composed stylistics prominently feature synthesizers. In fact, the whole show has a 1980s feel to it, though the presence of smartphones suggests a present-day setting.

Director-choreographer Jerry Mitchell’s choreography is so perfectly integrated into the staging of the show that it’s sometimes hard to tell when the cast is “dancing” and when they’re not. The acrobatics of one number, however, blew the audience away, thanks to Mitchell’s athletic choreography and some specially designed factory equipment. The cast performs Mitchell’s sharp choreo with strength, though at least one member of the Angels (Lola’s backup troupe) appears slightly awkward, and may be a recent addition to the tour.

Fayetteville, NC native son J. Harrison Ghee stars as Lola (nee Simon). His skills as a comedian, dramatic actor, vocalist, and dancer make him one of the most shining stars currently touring the nation. Every shady line, precise note, and sassy move are winning. His take-me-to-church performance of “Hold Me in Your Heart,” makes Whitney Houston look like Florence Foster Jenkins.

Adam Kaplan stars alongside Ghee as the straight-laced Charlie Price. Kaplan is a strong dramatic actor and is a perfect “straight man” (pun highly intended) to Lola. Kaplan has a powerful tenor voice; and, when the song’s range stays in the higher end, really brings the house down.

Believe it or not, even with two powerhouse performances of well-written leads, the show is quite nearly stolen by Tiffany Engen as Lauren, who crushes on Charlie throughout the show with timing and physical comedy abilities that are unparalleled. This is one of the finest comedic performances that I have ever seen in a stage musical. The audience simply adores her, and she makes this supporting role into a leading one.

Tiffany Engen stars as Lauren, opposite Adam Kaplan as Charlie, and nearly steals the show in the Durham Performing Arts Center's presentation of the First National Tour of <em>Kinky Boots </em>(photo Matthew Murphy)

Tiffany Engen stars as Lauren, opposite Adam Kaplan as Charlie, and nearly steals the show in DPAC‘s Sept. 13-18 presentation of the First National Tour of Kinky Boots (photo Matthew Murphy)

Other memorable characterizations come from Andrew Scanlon as macho factory worker Don (Scanlon was subbing on Tuesday night, but I cannot imagine anyone playing the part better), Jim J. Bullock as the noble and lovable George (see Triangle Arts & Entertainment s interview with Bullock), Jhazz Fleming as the confident, flamboyant Young Lola, and an impressive troupe of fishy superstars (each showing off their cunning, uniqueness, nerve, and talent) called The Angels: Joseph Anthony Byrd, Sam Dowling, Ian Gallagher Fitzgerald, J.P. Qualters, Xavier Reyes, and Sam Rohloff. If any of these gentlemen are interested, I know that RuPaul is looking for contestants for Season 10 of RuPaul’s Drag Race!

Kinky Boots packs an additional punch: relevance. Social rules defining gender display and sexuality have become increasingly topical in the last several years. When the play was written in 2012, there was no way to know that (A) same-sex marriage would have been legalized in North Carolina or that (B) House Bill 2 would have been written and passed. This perpetual cognitive dissonance has created a tense environment in North Carolina, especially in areas as diverse as Durham.

The queer community certainly came out in support of Kinky Boots and its message and its characters on Tuesday night. Local drag queens were in attendance, along with dozens of members of the local press. This audience’s attitude toward this show’s message could not have been made clearer: a cheering, stomping, screaming crowd of devoted fans leapt to our feet the moment this show hit its final chord.

Tears of laughter, sadness, and joy filled the house throughout the 2.5-hour performance. One of the most beautiful things about this story is that Kinky Boots has no human villain. Rather, the villain is likely an idea: prejudice.

This show is an absolute must-see for those who appreciate inspirational underdog stories, adore the glitz and glamour of Broadway, and/or don t hate joy.

The show is in the PG-13 zone for language, sexual innuendo, and intense emotional moments.

Adam Kaplan (center left) as Charlie and J. Harrison Ghee as Lola triumph at the Milan shoe showcase (photo by Matthew Murphy)

Adam Kaplan (center left) as Charlie and J. Harrison Ghee as Lola triumph in Milan (photo by Matthew Murphy)

SECOND OPINION: Sept. 14th Raleigh, NC BroadwayWorld.com Raleigh review by Taryn Oesch: http://www.broadwayworld.com/raleigh/article/BWW-Review-KINKY-BOOTS-Opens-at-DPAC-20160914 and Sept. 7th preview by Taryn Oesch: http://www.broadwayworld.com/raleigh/article/BWW-Preview-KINKY-BOOTS-Comes-to-Durham-20160830; Sept. 14th Durham, NC Herald-Sun review by Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: http://www.heraldsun.com/lifestyles/blogs/on-stage/review-kinky-boots-a-fabulous-show/article_d95f5134-7aa7-11e6-93dd-bb04579bdf14.html and Sept. 8th preview by Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: http://www.heraldsun.com/lifestyles/kinky-boots-cyndi-lauper-s-tony-award-winning-musical-back/article_f93179e2-7566-11e6-875b-5bb525d26b0f.html (Note: You must subscribe to read these articles); Sept. 7th Durham, NC Indy Week mini-preview by Zack Smith: http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/kinky-boots/Event?oid=4988823; and June 3rd Raleigh, NC News & Observer preview by Colin Campbell: http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/politics-columns-blogs/under-the-dome/article81656222.html. (Note: To read Triangle Arts and Entertainment’s online version of the Sept. 13th Triangle Review preview by Robert W. McDowell, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2016/09/an-encore-presentation-of-kinky-boots-will-strut-its-stuff-at-dpac-sept-13-18/.)

The Durham Performing Arts Center presents KINKY BOOTS at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 14 and 15, 8 p.m. Sept. 16, 2 and 8 p.m. Sept. 17, and 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sept. 18 at 123 Vivian St., Durham, North Carolina 27701, in the American Tobacco Historic District.

TICKETS: $35-$160 (including fees). Click here for DPAC Special Offers.

BOX OFFICE:

DPAC Box Office: 919-680-ARTS (2787), tickets@dpacnc.com, or http://www.dpacnc.com/events-tickets/where-to-buy.

Ticketmaster: 800-982-2787 or http://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115558/1726370.

GROUP RATES (15+ tickets): 919/281-0587, Groups@DPACnc.com, or http://www.dpacnc.com/events-tickets/group-services.

SHOW: http://www.dpacnc.com/events/detail/kinky-boots-1 and https://www.facebook.com/events/803432513136146/.

VIDEO PREVIEW: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KKlCG1u4iQY.

THE TOUR: http://kinkybootsthemusical.com/tour.php and https://www.ibdb.com/tour-production/kinky-boots–499455.

TOUR CAST: http://kinkybootsthemusical.com/cast.php.

TOUR CREATIVES: http://kinkybootsthemusical.com/cast.php.

DPAC NEWS RELEASE: http://www.dpacnc.com/news/detail/kinky-boots-returns-to-dpac-sept-13-18.

PRESENTER/VENUE: http://www.dpacnc.com/, https://www.facebook.com/DPACNC, https://twitter.com/DPAC, and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Durham_Performing_Arts_Center.

DIRECTIONS: http://www.dpacnc.com/plan-your-visit/directions.

PARKING: http://www.dpacnc.com/plan-your-visit/parking.

OTHER LINKS:

Kinky Boots (2005 film): http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0434124/ (Internet Movie Database), http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/629213/Kinky-Boots/ (Turner Classic Movies), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kinky_Boots_%28film%29 (Wikipedia).

Kinky Boots (2013 Broadway and 2015 West End musical): http://kinkybootsthemusical.com/index.php (official website), http://ibdb.com/show.php?id=493286 (Internet Broadway Database), https://www.facebook.com/KinkyBootsBway (Facebook page), https://twitter.com/KinkyBootsBway (Twitter page), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kinky_Boots_%28musical%29 (Wikipedia), and https://www.youtube.com/user/kinkybootsbway (YouTube).

Cyndi Lauper (music and lyrics): http://cyndilauper.com/ (official website), http://ibdb.com/person.php?id=391830 (Internet Broadway Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyndi_Lauper (Wikipedia).

Harvey Fierstein (book): http://ibdb.com/person.php?id=6157 (Internet Broadway Database), https://www.facebook.com/harvey.fierstein (Facebook page), https://twitter.com/harveyfierstein (Twitter page), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harvey_Fierstein (Wikipedia).

EDITOR’S NOTE:

Dustin K. Britt is a Triangle native, holds a master’s degree in special education from East Carolina University, and teaches locally. He can be spotted all over the Triangle area either painting scenery or chewing on it. He has received local theater award nominations for doing both. He is a devoted cinephile and author of Hold the Popcorn, a movie blog on Facebook. Click here to read his reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.

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