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Theater review: ‘Kinky Boots’ cast tackles difficult tunes to portray a heartwarming story

SHARE Theater review: ‘Kinky Boots’ cast tackles difficult tunes to portray a heartwarming story

"KINKY BOOTS," through Jan. 22, Eccles Theater, 131 S. Main (801-355-2787 or artsaltlake.org); running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes (one intermission)

If you see small flashes of light during the evenings this week, it’s likely to be the glint off the sequined costumes from the national touring production of “Kinky Boots,” playing through Jan. 22 at the Eccles Theater.

Full of flash and glamour while at the same time sharing a story with heart and hope, “Kinky Boots” will have you tapping your feet and pausing to wonder what it’s like to walk in someone else’s boots.

Charlie Price inherits his father’s failing shoe factory and faces having to shut down the business and lay off the employees — all of whom are childhood friends and neighbors. A chance encounter with Lola, a drag queen, gives Charlie an idea: Cater to an underserved niche market. In this case, that market is drag queens who need beautiful heels sturdy enough to support the weight of a man.

Inspired by true events, “Kinky Boots” is an adaptation of the 2005 film of the same name. The musical, adapted for the stage by Tony Award-winning book writer Harvey Fierstein, opened on Broadway in 2013 and went on to win six Tony Awards, including best musical and best score for composer, awarded to the 1980s pop icon Cyndi Lauper, according to tonyawards.com.

The pop/nightclub beats thumping out of the speakers on Tuesday night could be felt bouncing through one’s chest. The production features fun songs with catchy tunes that perhaps had a bit more "nightclub" to them than necessary. However, that could be a result of the continued fine-tuning of the new Eccles Theater and its sound capabilities.

The music was a bit of a contrast to the speaking parts. There were times during Tuesday night’s show that the dialogue was difficult to hear or understand. The characters speak in accents and tend to do so quickly, and often it just didn’t feel loud enough.

The cast does a wonderful job selling the heartwarming story of acceptance, love, hope and identity with great enthusiasm. J. Harrison Ghee was delightful as Lola and quite tender, especially as the character let down her guard in some heart-to-heart moments with Charlie.

Curt Hansen as Charlie does a great job selling his angst in taking over a family business he never really wanted in the first place. Hansen and Ghee are supported by a solid cast, including Lola’s group of drag queen friends, know as the “Angels,” who steal the show.

Lauper’s score is a beast to sing. The entire score almost feels a step or two too high throughout. Though the actors do a great job singing it, it feels like a lot of work. Modern composers often write songs in the stratosphere of a vocalist’s range. Perhaps if they took a page out of the shows of yesteryear, they’d write in more singable keys, giving the performers a bit more breathing room to color what they’re singing rather than merely reaching the notes.

But this cast is ready to belt it out and have a great time. “Kinky Boots” razzle-dazzles and may just make you want to go shoe shopping.

Content advisory: "Kinky Boots" contains a few instances of drinking and stylized violence. There are also instances of sexual innuendo, and the story portrays drag queens performing in costume, some of which are revealing.