It’s been awhile since I’ve attended a musical that I know nothing about.

That’s not to say that I’ve seen every musical or heard every score. There are a number of classical and newer works I haven’t seen. But often the shows that have the longest tours are those that are beloved classics or have really captured the audience’s attention. And those are the ones I end up seeing.

I’d certainly heard of “Kinky Boots.” But aside from title I knew that Harvey Fierstein wrote the script and Cyndi Lauper wrote the music.

That was it.

Knowing little about the show, and knowing that many newer musicals haven’t been met with the best reviews, I was a little skeptical.

But, like the main character Charlie, by the end of the show I was a full believer in Kinky Boots.

(credit: Matthew Murphy)

(credit: Matthew Murphy)

For others unfamiliar with the premise, the show tells the story of Charlie and Lola. Charlie’s father owned a shoe factory that Charlie inherits once his father passes away. Unbeknownst to him, the business has been failing for the last few years. While on a business trip in London attempting to sell overstock merchandise, Charlie meets Lola, the drag queen alter ego of a man named Simon. Lola expresses her problem to find heels that can keep up with her after Charlie notes a broken one in her dressing room. Later, when attempting to find a niche market in order to save the business, Charlie teams up with Lola to create stiletto boots that can withstand the weight of a grown man.

Steven Booth was naïve and charming as the heroic Charlie. At times he was little hard to understand during a few of the bigger group numbers. However, his soft harmony during “Not My Father’s Son” beautifully complimented Kyle Taylor Parker’s melody, and his solo number “Soul of a Man” showed off the range of his bright tenor and his vocal control.

(credit: Matthew Murphy)

(credit: Matthew Murphy)

It would be hard to pinpoint any weak link within the chorus or supporting characters, but it is quite easy to say that Lola’s Angels were by far the crowd favorite.

To master all of the intense dance choreography, which included a few flips and splits, is impressive enough. To do it in thigh-high stiletto boots is on another level.

Joe Beauregard, Darius Harper, Tommy Martinez, Ricky Schroeder, Juan Torres-Falcon and Hernando Umana were the perfect accompaniment to Lola.

The men strutted fiercely, danced flawlessly in sky-high heels and packed enough attitude for the whole show. They clearly were also having so much fun that it was impossible not to smile whenever they were on stage.

But the true star of the show was Parker as Lola.

(credit: Matthew Murphy)

(credit: Matthew Murphy)

To say that Parker stole the show would be an understatement. From the minute Parker graced the stage in the short, glittery red dress there was never a show to steal. It belonged to him.

Parker’s Lola was sassy and strong; a perfect counterpart to Booth’s Charlie who was still searching for his spot in the world.

And while the audience loved his big, loud Lola, perhaps the moment he truly owned the show was during “Not My Father’s Son.”

Stripped of makeup and costumes, set in the stall of the men’s bathroom, the ballad where Simon reveals his turbulent relationship with his father and how he’s struggled with acceptance his whole life leaves him raw and exposed. Parker’s voice is strong, but smooth and velvety. His emotion is palpable throughout the song but his voice never wavers. It’s the moment when Lola and Simon become one and become a real person, not a caricature.

(credit: Matthew Murphy)

(credit: Matthew Murphy)

As many theater goers have undoubtedly noticed, directors, writers and casts are being asked to change some older musicals to reflect current times. A popular example is Tiger Lily and “Ugg-a-Wugg” in “Peter Pan.”

While it is true that these stories were written in a different time, it is also true that many need to be edited to be enjoyed by all audiences.

In addition to its incredibly humorous script, intricate choreography and fun, pop group numbers, perhaps the reason “Kinky Boots” is so popular is because it is a show that needs no changing to fit with the times. Although written two years ago, it’s themes of defining what is normal, finding oneself in an ever changing world and battling prejudices are still very relevant, and I believe always will be.

And the main message – to accept people for who they are, including themselves – is timeless.

Minnesota audiences love to give standing ovations. In all the shows that I have reviewed, almost all of them have gotten a standing-o. But, I can say with certainty that none of them got as much reaction during the show, or as strong a shout of appreciation at the end, than “Kinky Boots.”

Kinky Boots” is playing at the Orpheum Theatre now through Aug. 2. Tickets cost $49 to $144. To purchase tickets, or for more information, visit the Hennepin Theatre Trust online.

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