“And remember. You are not making footwear. You are not making boots. You are making two and a half feet of irresistible, tubular sex!”
Shoes. I love them. It doesn’t matter how much weight you gain or what mood you are in, shoes will always fit and will ALWAYS look good. A pair of red heels will make your legs look awesome and your bottom…well, I’ll leave the words to describe your own derrière up to you. So, imagine my excitement when my sister approached my family over the holidays with tickets to Kinky Boots, a Tony Award-winning broadway musical entirely about heeled shoes? I was over the moon!
The Toronto Mirvish production of Kinky Boots opened in June 2015, and since then it has been extended three times. The show is inspired by true events and tells the story of a shoemaker’s son, Charlie, who takes over the business and decides to tap into a niche market — making sturdy stilettos for crossdressers. An incredible partnership between Grammy/Tony award-winning pop icon Cyndi Lauper and broadway legend Harvey Fierstein ensured the music was sublime and the characters were loveable.
As we settled into our cramped seats — the Royal Alexander Theatre really packs a crowd and doesn’t provide a lot of leg room — I was a bit worried. Our show featured a lot of understudies and the singing during the opening segment was a bit rough and pitchy. I remember thinking that I had hyped up this production so much that it was going to be a disappointment in the end.
Enter Lola (a.k.a. Simon), played by the absolutely incredible Alan Mingo Jr., a show-stopping drag artist that captivated the audience with her confidence and comedy. Seriously, Mingo Jr. could teach me a few things about high kicks and dancing in 8-inch stilettos. Not only does Mingo Jr. have the moves, but he also has the pipes to play this layered character. With energetic toe-tappers like “Sex is in the Heel” to emotionally-draining ballads like “Not My Father’s Son,” his portrayal of Lola was flawless. Any pitch problems from the rest of the cast was made up by his incredible performance.
It was the women who really made Kinky Boots shine. Lola and her band of Angels had the audience hooting and whistling the whole show with their outrageous outfits and ridiculous dance moves, while Lauren (who is Charlie’s love interest and unexpected business partner) left us in awe with her hilarious numbers. What’s even better is that behind all of the hilarity and production, there were some fantastic voices with unbelievable ranges.
Underneath the fancy shoes and the sparkling outfits, Kinky Boots makes us rethink what the word “acceptance” really means. The show reflects the complex nature of gender and the stigma associated not only with drag, but with what it means to be a ‘man’ or a ‘woman’. It’s about coming into your own and learning to accept the people around us for who they truly are — a lesson that seems even more important to reiterate in the 21st century. Or as Lola liked to say at the beginning of one of her shows, “Welcome ladies, gentlemen and those who are yet to make up your mind.”
I would highly suggest seeing this musical production before it leaves Toronto in March, but who knows? I’m hoping for a fourth extension!