REVIEW / THEATRE
Sands Theatre, Friday (Oct 5)
The higher the heel, the closer to heaven, so some say - and Kinky Boots is a musical of many highs. It is a superb spectacle, but also one with plenty of soul - and sole.
The Tony award-winning musical, with book and score by two legends of stage and song, Harvey Fierstein and Cyndi Lauper, is set in Northampton. Charlie Price inherits his late father's failing shoe factory and has to fire all his long-time employees - unless he can come up with a new product for a niche market.
His solution comes from an unlikely source: Lola, a cabaret performer and drag queen who befriends him after he tries to save her from some toughs and gets knocked out by her broken boot.
Charlie realises that drag queens need stronger heels which can bear a man's weight and decides to gamble his factory's fate on a line of "kinky boots" by Lola for the Milan runway - although first they must overcome resistance from the close-minded folk of Northampton.
While Charlie's storyline is the central premise of the plot, his scenes of daddy issues and self-doubt are not very compelling and Lance Bordelon's singing is sometimes overwrought.
Much comic relief comes from his employees, including boorish Don (Adam Du Plessis), who makes life difficult for Lola, and Lauren (a self-deprecatingly funny Sydney Patrick), who is nursing a crush on Charlie.
BOOK IT/KINKY BOOTS
WHERE: Sands Theatre, Marina Bay Sands, 10 Bayfront Avenue
WHEN: Now showing until Sunday (Oct 14), Tuesday to Friday, 8pm; Saturday, 2 and 8pm; Sunday, 1 and 6pm
ADMISSION: $65 to $185 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg)
INFO: Advisory 16 (some mature content), go to www.marinabaysands.com
Jos N. Banks plays the statuesque Lola with a studied effortlessness. "Tell me I have not inspired something burgundy," she declares, upon being presented with an unprepossessing test heel. Yet she betrays an achingly vulnerable side out of drag as Simon, who was disowned by his father for not being the son he hoped for.
Charlie says of Lola that she leaves a "big, gaping hole" in the room after she departs, and this is the case with Banks, whose absence is palpable in every scene Lola is not in.
She is backed by her Angels, an impressive posse of high-kicking, back-flipping drag queens dressed impeccably by costume designer Gregg Barnes. With them in the picture, the show heads for a stunning finale.
Director Jerry Mitchell also choreographs the showstopping numbers such as Everybody Say Yeah, which makes a truly inspired use of conveyor belts.
The set by David Rockwell makes effective use of moving pieces and transforms the stage from the brick-and-iron factory to the glittering catwalks of Milan, helped by fabulous lighting from Kenneth Posner.
Kinky Boots is truly uplifting, in more ways than just a six-inch heel and a stellar tuck. A kink may mean a deviation from the norm, but this musical deserves a place in the hearts of all.