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What Makes ‘Kinky Boots’ Tick And Why It Grabbed 13 Noms

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Photo by Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for Kinky Liqueur

Photo by Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for Kinky Liqueur

By James Cooper

What does it take to make a great Broadway musical? A talented score, a clever book, great singing and dancing, impressive costumes and an engaging set. Do all great musicals hit all of these points equally well? Of course not. But “Kinky Boots” does.

That’s why it grabbed a leading 13 Tony Award nominations on Tuesday.

Kinky Boots” opened in early April to wide praise (except for a few grinches). In a weak musical year, it may be the best Broadway has to offer. And two great pop icons like Lauper and Fierstein are sure to attract Tony voters.

MORE: Complete List Of 2013 Tony Awards Nominees

Lauper’s first attempt as a Broadway composer has received high praise for her hard-driving songs. The New York Times called her songs “audience hugging,” and while Variety noted that her lyrics don’t always make a lot of sense, she has written a number of musical showstoppers.

The plot is based on a small British film, of the same name, about Charlie (Stark Sands) who inherits his father’s failing shoe factory and teams with Lola (Billy Porter), a black drag queen, to design a line of flashy boots for cross-dressers. Together, they save the factory.

Along the way, we get a lot of completely expected messages about being true to yourself, “overcoming prejudice and transcending stereotypes.” But you knew that coming in. The question is, does this show deliver? And nearly every critic thinks it does, finding most of it highly entertaining.

The book, by the beloved Mr. Fierstein, follows the same story arc as the film. You will even see some similarities to his book for “La Cage aux Folles” and to his performance in “Hairspray.” And the concept of saving a British factory town has inhabited “Billy Elliot” and “The Full Monty” as well. The idea of drag queens saving the world also showed up not too long ago in “Priscilla Queen of the Desert” as well as “La Cage aux Folles.” It also bears some relation to Fierstein’s “Torch Song Trilogy.”

But this show seems to transcend that predictability because of the direction and high-powered choreography of Jerry Mitchell, as well as the costumes (and boots) by Gregg Barnes.

Cyndi Lauper’s extensive career in hard-driving pop music (starting with “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” in 1983) and her extensive performing in MTV videos and concerts has made her an influential pop musician for more than 30 years, and it is her musical style that makes “Kinky Boots” a hit.

Harvey Fierstein is an influential actor and playwright who has written, directed, sung and acted since 1982 and is one of only two people to have won Tonys in four categories (the other is Tommy Tune). He is widely popular in the gay and straight communities and seems unable to not succeed.

“Kinky Boots” is the Fierstein/Lauper combination that is likely to propel the unlikely musical to a Tony Award.

James Cooper is a freelance writer covering all things Theater and Fairfield County. His work can be found on Examiner.com.

 

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