I keep meeting interesting people at the theatre, not just in Edmonton but now on Broadway too. Tonight I enjoyed some wonderful conversation about theatre and life and as a bonus, one of the people I’d been talking to pointed out Giorgio Armani returning to his seat after intermission.
Tonight’s show was Kinky Boots. When the movie of the same name was new, I saw it and thought that it was pleasant, but just part of that subgenre with Full Monty and Brassed Off, where plucky English working class factory workers cope in a post-industrial world, and also bore some similarity to Billy Elliot as well as Full Monty in discussing how definitions of masculinity need to change in that world.
But I followed recommendations I’d been hearing from friends and from theatregoers I met earlier in the week here, and lined up at the TKTS same-day discounts booth this afternoon to get a ticket to the musical version of Kinky Boots, book by Harvey Fierstein and lyrics and music by Cyndi Lauper. And I was not disappointed. I liked the musical a lot more than I liked the movie. The two main characters, Lola (Billy Porter) and Charlie (Andy Kelso), both grew up feeling like they’d let down their fathers in wanting to be themselves, but both ended up using the skills they learned from their fathers in finding their own destinies. I loved how the ensemble seemed credible as factory workers, men and women of a variety of ages and body types. An article in the Playbill pointed out that the women at the factory gradually dress in brighter colours as they spend more time with Lola, which I hadn’t picked up on. I loved how the finale at the Milan footwear show had everyone wearing different spectacular thigh-high boots. And I loved the glimpses into design problem-solving, with problem definition (male performers need sturdier stilettos than the ones available for women), iteration (burgundy boots with a low heel are comfortable but not acceptable to the target market), group idea generation (Charlie and Lauren mostly), and prototyping.
The set was full of moving bits shifting around to be inside the factory, outside the factory, in various pubs and the drag queen nightclub, etc. And there was some impressive use of conveyor belts.
Kinky Boots has been running on Broadway for about a year. It won a bunch of Tony awards last year and is about to go on tour.
Having watched costumer friends struggle to assemble enough sandals to outfit the cast of Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, I’m guessing that the footwear will be one big obstacle to eventual local productions of this show. Maybe MTI will rent the boots along with the books and orchestra scores. Meanwhile – see it here. It seems to be available at TKTS most days, for 40% or 50% off the face value of the tickets.