Bank of America Theatre: “Kinky Boots”

This show is going to win a Tony or two … or three or four.

“Kinky Boots,” currently in its pre-Broadway run downtown at the Bank of America Theatre, is a tour de force de fun. Its stars are Stark Sands as Charlie Price, the son of a shoemaker, and Billy Porter as Lola, the transvestite son of a semi-pro boxer. Their fathers don’t feature into the physical as much as the emotional landscape of the musical, which draws its plot from the “I can’t make my Dad proud” angst they both are struggling with as adults.

If that sounds heavy, rest assured—this is a raucous two hours, where you’ll be laughing or just plain “my cheeks hurt” smiling 99 percent of the time. Sands is formidable as Charlie, who is left alone to take over and save the family shoe factory after his father’s untimely death. When it becomes clear no one wants the product anymore, he’s encouraged by co-worker Lauren (in an excellent turn from “Wicked” alum Annaleigh Ashford) to find his niche market. With that advice, Charlie finds it—in the form of Lola, a transvestite showgirl, and her compadres. It’s at this moment in the show where fun takes over and you don’t look back.

Porter is going to bring the house down on Broadway, as he does here—quite simply, he is fantastic. He has the audience on its feet from the moment he takes the stage, and his “diva of all divas” act is matched equally with an especially poignant rendition of “I’m Not My Father’s Son.”

The entire cast shines, but Celina Carvajal as Charlie’s high-maintenance girlfriend and Daniel Stewart Sherman as a frustrated factory employee are also worthy of special mention.

With a book by Harvey Fierstein based off the 2005 movie of the same name, and music and lyrics from Cyndi Lauper, the actors have ample material to work with and should have no problem wowing the New York crowd. There are several issues that need to be addressed—Charlie’s powerhouse solo seems a bit forced, and there are couple of plot points that need massaging to make better sense—but overall, a wildly entertaining show. It’s only here for two weeks, so go. Now.

“Kinky Boots” is playing at Bank of America Theatre (18 W. Monroe St.) through November 4. Wondering about taking the family? It’s fairly clean, but does feature a drag queen chorus line, front and center—so take your kids’ maturity into consideration. For tickets ($33 – $100), call 800-775-2000 or visit broadwayinchicago.com.