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    Categories: A & ETheater

Review: Stomp your Feet for Kinky Boots

You remember fun? (Like back when Obama was president?) C’mon…you know… fun—care-free, lighthearted, lovely whimsical, Cyndi Lauper, “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” F-U-N.

You do?

Well then. Kinky Boots, now playing through Jan. 22 at the Eccles Theater, is just what you need. And believe me, with what’s going down this weekend, you REALLY are gonna need an evening with this absolutely fabulous cast.

So I’m just going to put the link for tickets right here. Go ahead, click on through, buy yourself a pair. You’ll thank me later.

With original music from the original She-Bopper, (Cyndi Lauper, duh), the musical was a sleeper Broadway hit, back in 2012 (ah, those halcyon days, I keep a picture by my bedside of those days) It’s the story of a struggling shoe maker who bets his factory on producing a line of, you got it, kinky boots for drag queens—a niche market that he hopes will save the day and the jobs of his dedicated workers. It’s a very 2012 sentiment, and all, helping out the little guy. Sweet nostalgia.

The story, such as there is, is light, full of pluck, small- to medium-sized redemptions, a little romance, some funny stuff, and lots and lots of occasions for glamorous, fabulous soaring songs. The show’s star, Lola (J. Harrison Ghee), apart from a mushy English accent, can do no wrong. The centerpiece Queen of the Drag Queens, shows up 1/3 in and whips the play into a frenzy. And, yes, ladies and gentlemen (and those you haven’t made up their minds yet), those legs do go all the way up.

Playing second fiddle to Lola is Charlie Price (Curt Hansen), who finds his true calling in saving the struggling factory and is the main beneficiary of the play’s after-school-special lessons (believe in yourself, believe in others, you can count on your friends, etc…). Hansen can sing too and has plenty of great moments but, like Charlie himself says in his final swan song, there’s a Lola-sized gap left every time she leaves the stage.

The ensemble so too rocks. Big voices, funky dance moves. Lola’s entourage, the Angels (Sam Dowling, Ian Gallagher Fitzgerald, JP Qualters, Xavier Reyes, Sam Rohloff) clearly fell down from camp heaven. But don’t count out the bopping factory workers who can bring the funk too. (I found myself watching the chorus as much as the principles.)

And the love-interest Lauren (Rose Hemingway) is straight-up awesome. I picked her bright voice out of the ensemble early on and was tickled by her comical, very Cyndi Lauper, should-she, shouldn’t-she solo: “The History of Wrong Guys.”

The only real stinker was the drab Utah audience! C’mon people! Stomp your feet, woot, holler, whistle, et al. This show demands and deserves enthusiasm from its audiences and at times I could practically feel  J. Harrison Ghee thinking “I know you’re out there, I can hear you breathing.” The crowd finally got it after Lola’s out-of-her heels Diva moment in Act II, because, umm, how could you not?

So please, please, folks when you go, lose the polite little Utah people twittering claps and bring the love from the first second Lola walks on stage. This cast will eat it up. Kinky Boots is about fun. You remember fun, right?

Go see plays.

Jeremy Pugh :Jeremy Pugh is Salt Lake magazine's Web Editor. He covers culture, history, theater, the outdoors and whatever else we ask him to. Jeremy is also the author of the book "100 Things to Do in Salt Lake City Before You Die" and the forthcoming history, culture and urban legend guidebook "Secret Salt Lake" (Spring 2019, Reedy Press).