Facebook

4/7/13

Kinky Boots - Thank you Billy Porter. Can We Get Back to the Show Now?


I took one of my favorite girls, Ali, to see Kinky Boots for her birthday. She turned to me at the end and saw my apprehensive face and asked, "did you like that?" To which I responded, "I did, but not for the same reason everyone else does, apparantly."

More on that later...but I am sincere in saying I did enjoy the show. Open at the Al Hirschfeld Theater, Kinky Boots is the "check your brain at the door," feel-good new musical of the season. Regardless of its problems (which there were plenty of), it's a big, glittery ball of fun and that is a welcome sight to say the least.

There is some mighty star power to be found in the creative, starting with the book by Harvey Fierstein. Adapted from the 2005 film of the same name - which follows Charlie, who recently inherited his father's struggling shoe factory, and a fierce drag queen named Lola as they begin a collaboration on men's drag footwear - Fierstein's book is inoffensive at the worst. It is not quite a throwaway (although he clearly forgot to include an ending to the central "will they or won't they save the factory?" storyline), but one glance at the show and you know the book should (and it does) take a back seat in favor of the costumes and the numbers and such.

Speaking of the costumes, Gregg Barnes work is a sight to behold. Lola's costumes and her five male-in-drag, back-up dancer's, the "Angels," are in your face with their fabulous dressing and skin-bearing sexiness...because why not. When the first two thigh-high red, sequined boots make their appearance, they receive a (well-deserved) round of applause and the final number, with at least 15 pairs making the rounds, illicited a whole bunch of, "Hmm, I want that one. No wait, THAT one. No, the OTHER one. Screw it; I want them all" thoughtspeak.

And I'm no Jerry Mitchell fan - if you ask me, his choreography, while polished, always struck me as generic - but it works well here. Especially considering most of the dancing are the Angels in heels or thigh-highs; like bosses, they put most women to shame with their TWERQing. And as gimmicky as it sounds, Mitchell's use of conveyer belts for the Act I closer felt fresh and resulted in a stunning number.

What shocked me the most was Cyndi Lauper's score, as she put out a few great, catchy numbers. Not only great, but modern with the genre-blending of different eras of pop and rock (unsurprising when you consider her career in the 80's). The result is a few fun-loving uptempo numbers to contrast some dramatic ballads. While a song or three may be a lil' wonky (or utterly superfluous), there were at least four numbers that I'd add to my "musicals" playlist in a heartbeat.

But now, here is where I begin to part ways with the masses: the performances. Everyone everywhere is singing the praises of Billy Porter's Lola and I. Don't. Get. It. Yes, he makes for a beautiful woman and he is wonderfully sassy and heart-breaking respectively. But I feel like, in the big picture, his performance is horrifically distracting to the story because he doesn't let the spotlight leave him for more then two seconds without manically scrambling to steal it back. Kudos to him for working his ass off, but he is trying too hard and it shows. Granted, Lola having his/her own entrance music, the biting one-liners, the audience mugging, the contrived bits of character writing (capped off with a horrible, clumsily-inserted 11:00 ballad) aren't Porter's doing, but the show goes so far out of its way to get Porter a Tony nomination, a problem in itself, and then he compounds the issue by devouring the show in the worst way possible. 

Also, Porter's raspy singing sounds like he is a two packs-a-day smoker. Am I the only one who thought that?

I'd be a little easier on him if his character was the only thing worth noticing (and if the perception of his performance wasn't so vastly overblown), but for my money, there was one (maybe two) performances that blew him out of the water.

Let's begin with Stark Sands, who brought it in so many ways. For playing Charlie, a character on the more serious end of the spectrum, he lights up the stage when it comes to his performing. His voice is belt-tastic and he exudes that charming, leading man charisma when performing "Step 1," the rousing, "come on y'all" number. His second act ballad is utter garbage, but Stark even made that number sound worthwhile. And for all the funny moments the show offers, nothing tops the sight-gag of watching Stark attempt to maintain poise and grace while modeling his sparkly, thigh-high creations...and then falling, of course. Hilarious.

But as 'okay' as Porter is and as fantastic as Sands is, my undoubtedly favorite part of Kinky Boots was courtesy of Annaleigh Ashford. Playing Lauren, a factory worker harboring a secret crush on Charlie, Ashford is no stranger to making the most out of nothing roles and her casting here was a bit of genius. Mostly because her performing style echoes a younger Cyndi Lauper, so Ashford getting a number from the legend herself could only bring about great things. And it does...her rendition of "The History of Wrong Guys," a corky and funny number about her troubling dating past, is the most mind-blowing, awesome moment of the show and an unexpected one at that. Girl knows what she is doing. Trust. Trust.

The drag, cross-dressing sector is well-represented by Kinky Boots. It's fun and all and I am already looking forward to their spectacle of media performances. But at piece with what I stand by...I like Kinky Boots, not "The Billy Porter Show" and I think it is in the show's best interest to maintain the former from here-on out.


Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy

2 comments:

Milagros091tep Dotson56xuj said...

This is a amazing website.data recovery greenville sc give me great help when i want to find my lost data.
They have a professional team and technical support.They can solve your any software issues.You must have a try if you have a problem with your mac.

sayhi said...

It seems great! Here are some discount ray ban sunglasses for you.