Review: Kinky Boots (Broadway in Chicago, 2016)

| August 31, 2016

J. Harrison Ghee in Kinky Boots tour, Broadway in Chicago           
 

Kinky Boots

Music/Lyrics by Cyndi Lauper
   Book by Harvey Fierstein
at Oriental Theatre, 24 W. Randolph (map)
thru Sept 4  |  tix: $25-$98  |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets   
     


    
  

“Everybody say yeah!” to the current Kinky Boots cast

  

Kinky Boots national tour by Cyndi Lauper and Harvey Fierstein, Broadway in Chicago

    
Broadway in Chicago presents
    
Kinky Boots

Review by John Olson

It’s been nearly four years since Kinky Boots surprised us with its pre-Broadway engagement at that theater on Monroe Street. Well enough received here at the time, it opened in NYC the following spring and went on to win many of the important Tonys (Musical, Score, Choreography, Leading Actor) and enter the annals of long-running hits. It was back again last summer so we could see what was changed between Chicago and Broadway and, while I missed that engagement, I was happy for the chance to catch up with it during this very brief six-day engagement at the Oriental Theatre that closes this Sunday. I’m happy to agree with others before me that the changes strengthened what was already an entertaining show into an even better, and more durable show. More newsworthy though, may be that this tour, wrapping up its second year on the road (having opened 2 years ago in Las Vegas), is in great shape and is delivering the goods Adam Kaplan as Charlie in Kinky Boots national tour, Broadway in Chicagowith as much energy and conviction as we saw that opening night in 2012. The current cast is the second for the tour, having taken over from the original tour cast last November. Ten months into this gig, they all seem to be having as great a time as the audience, which is a very good time.

The current Lola – the drag queen who inspires Charlie Price to save his failing family shoe factory by converting its product line from men’s dress shoes to high heeled boots for cross-dressing men – is J. Harrison Ghee, the role’s understudy during the tour’s first year. Ghee is every bit as entertaining as was the estimable Billy Porter, who originated the role here and went on to win a Tony for it. Ghee has the vocal chops. His 11:00 number “Hold Me in Your Heart” could compete with performances by any of the R&B divas out there, and gives the character the underlying strength Harvey Fierstein wrote for Lola (and Fierstein is a man who knows drag queens who are strong men). Without diminishing the character, though, the writers and director/choreographer in their rewrites brought more balance between Lola and Charlie, and Ghee should be praised for not upstaging Adam Kaplan’s Charlie. Seeing the tryout production, I felt Charlie’s character was insufficiently developed, given that Charlie’s journey is really what the story is about. He has to learn to make decisions and become a leader, and though he’s generally accepting of cross-dressers and gays, deals with a level of deep-seated prejudice he may not have completely understood. That and lose a fiancée who is so much less right for him than the loyal employee Lauren (Tiffany Engen). Charlie has more dialogue and musical material now to flesh out his journey and it gives the audience an underdog they can root for. Kaplan makes a charming Charlie, and he can sing and move through Mitchell’s sexy and spirited dances.

 J. Harrison Ghee and Adam Kaplan in Kinky Boots, Broadway in Chicago Joseph Anthony Byrd, Sam Dowling, Ian Gallagher Fitzgerald, JP Qualters, Xavier Reyes, Sam Rohloff, J. Harrison GheeAdam Kaplan and J. Harrison Ghee in Kinky Boots, Broadway in Chicago Charissa Hogeland as Nicola in Kinky Boots national tour, Broadway in ChicagoJ. Harrison Ghee as Lola in Kinky Boots national tour, Broadway in Chicago J. Harrison Ghee as Lola in Kinky Boots tour, Broadway in ChicagoAaron Walpole and J. Harrison Ghee in Kinky Boots, Broadway in Chicago Tiffany Engen as Lauren in Kinky Boots national tour, Broadway in ChicagoJ. Harrison Ghee, Tiffany Engen, Adam Kaplan, Jim J. Bullock, Patty Lohr and Tami Dahbura in Kinky Boots

There are two other reasons to catch this tour. The first is the quirky comic performance by Engen as Lauren, the unlucky-in-love (until the finale) girl with “The History of Wrong Guys” (one of Cyndi Lauper’s stronger numbers for the show). She’s sweet, just a little goofy, and shows all the marks of a sold comic actress. The other – a special bonus for those with memories of TV sitcoms from long ago – is Jim J. Bullock as the factory manager George. The one-time Monroe Ficus of Ted Knight’s series Too Close for Comfort, Hollywood Squares regular and co-host of The Jim J. and Tammy Faye Show has been doing stage work in recent years. He uses some of his trademark prissiness judiciously and to good effect as the agreeable manager who becomes enthusiastic about the new business strategy.

With David Rockwell’s clever set that captures both the grittiness of a northern England factory and the brightly lit Milan fashion runway where the line of kinky boots is unveiled and Gregg Barnes’ imaginative costumes that range from factory worker grunge to over-the-top drag wear (if that’s even possible), Kinky Boots delivers the whole package of feel-good fun.

  
Rating: ★★★½
  
   

Kinky Boots continues through September 4th at the Oriental Theatre, 24 W. Randolph (map), with performances Tuesday-Friday at 7:30pm, Saturday 2pm & 8pm, Sunday 2pm.  Tickets are $25-$98, and are available by phone (800-775-2000) or online through Ticketmaster.com (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at BroadwayInChicago.com(Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes, includes an intermission)

Kinky Boots national tour by Cyndi Lauper and Harvey Fierstein, Broadway ChicagoJ. Harrison Ghee, Adam Kaplan, Joseph Anthony Byrd, Sam Dowling, Ian Gallagher Fitzgerald, JP Qualters, Xavier Reyes, Sa

Photos by Matthew Murphy


  

artists

cast

J. Harrison Ghee (Lola), Adam Kaplan (Charlie), Tiffany Engen (Lauren), Aaron Walpole (Don), Charissa Hogeland (Nicola), Jim J. Bullock (George), Tom Souhrada (Mr. Price, ensemble), Aidan Passaro, Harrison Wright (alternating as young Charlie), Jayden Brown, Jhazz Fleming (alternating as young Lola), David Jennings (Simon Sr., ensemble), Patty Lohr (Pat, ensemble), Josh Tolle (Harry, ensemble), Joseph Anthony Byrd, Sam Dowling, Ian Gallagher Fitzgerald, JP Qualters, Xavier Reyes, Sam Rohloff (angels, ensemble), Tami Dahbura (Trish, ensemble), Ciaran McCarthy (Richard Bailey, ensemble), Annie Edgerton (Milan Stage Manager, ensemble), Ashley Moniz, Casi Riegle, Andrew Scanlon, Sam Zeller (ensemble), Meryn Beckett, Alex Dreschke, Ellen Marlow, Maggie McDowell, Michael Milkanin (swings), E. Clayton Cornelious (Lola standby)

orchestra

Ryan Fielding Garrett (conductor, keyboard 1), Roberto Sinha (asst. conductor, keyboard 2), Oscar Bautista, Doug Quinn (guitars), Sherisse Rogers (bass), Jeff Roberts (drums), Garrett Hack (reeds), Jason Mellow (violin, viola), Doug Michels (trumpet)

behind the scenes

Jerry Mitchell (director, choreographer), David Rockwell (scenic design), Gregg Barnes (costume design), Kenneth Posner (lighting design), John Shivers (sound design), Josh Marquette (hair design), Randy Houston Mercer (makeup design), Telsey + Company, Justin Huff (casting), DB Bonds (associate director), Rusty Mowery (associate choreographer), Ryan Fielding Garrett (musical direction), Stephen Oremus (musical supervision, arrangements and orchestrations), Gregory R. Covert (production stage manager). Kate McDoniel (stage manager), Amber Dickerson (asst. stage manager), Randy Cohen (synthesizer programmer), Michael Keller (music coordinator), Michael Aarons (asst. music coordinator), Emily Grishman (music copying, music preparation), Katharine Edmonds (music preparation), Sammy Merendino (electronic drum programmer), Chris Danner (company manager), Theatersmith Associates (technical supervisor), Kathy Fabian (props supervisor), Michael Milkanin (dance captain), Amy Jo Jackson (dialect coach), Daryl Roth, Just For Laughs Theatricals, Judith Ann Abrams, Jane Bergere, BB Group, Jujamcyn Theaters, others (producers), Matthew Murphy (photographer)

Adam Kaplan in Kinky Boots tour, Broadway in Chicago

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Category: 2016 Reviews, Broadway in Chicago, John Olson, Musical, National Tours, Oriental Theatre (Ford), Video, YouTube

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