When pop artists have tried their hand at Broadway scores, they've experienced mixed degrees of success. Jukebox musicals excluded, those songwriters accustomed to the three-minute story have not always been able to translate their melodic prowess to the stage (think Paul Simon, and to a certain extent, U2). Fortunately, "Kinky Boots" does not suffer this fate.
The stage version of the Geoff Deane and Tim Firth film has been musicalized with a theatrical sensibility by that girl-who-just-wanted-to-have-fun, Cyndi Lauper. Fortunately, Lauper has a safety net for her Broadway debut in being surrounded by three artists who know much about writing for the flamboyant stage: librettist Harvey Fierstein ("La Cage Aux Folles," "Hairspray"), director / choreographer Jerry Mitchell, and orchestrator Stephen Oremus ("Wicked," "Avenue Q"), all of whom have received 2013 Tony Award nominations for their work on "Kinky Boots (Original Broadway Cast Recording)." The score is an eclectic mix of contemporary rock-theater styles ("Take What You Got," "Step One") and dance-oriented production numbers ("Sex Is In The Heel," "What a Woman Wants") that expectedly, and sensibly, fall in line with the "outsider" label that has followed Lauper throughout her 30-year career.
Charlie Price (Tony nominee Stark Sands, from "American Idiot") has reluctantly inherited his father's shoe factory, and only with the help of the boxer-turned-drag-queen, Lola (the infectious Billy Porter), does he find the passion for footwear that can give him the satisfaction (and love) that he needs. Fellow Tony nominee Annaleigh Ashford ("Hair," "Legally Blonde," and the recent Pasek and Paul release, "Dogfight") once again delivers a strong performance as Lauren, the unlucky girl vying for Charlie's love, who delivers the entertaining audition song, "The History of Wrong Guys." Ashford continues to impress with her flexibility to convincingly portray gritty women from both sides of the Atlantic.
Sands brings the vocal earnestness necessary to guide us through Charlie's dilemma, and in tandem with Porter, makes us care about the unlikely duo who both question how to come out (!) from the shadows of strong father figures to make a name for themselves on their own terms.
"Kinky Boots (Original Broadway Cast Recording)"
Harvey Fierstein / Cyndi Lauper
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