The Smith Center in Las Vegas is the city’s only free-standing performing arts hall, and is a relative newcomer to the city. (It opened in March of 2012.) It has large ambitions here and nationwide, so they were justifiably proud when they were chosen to launch the first national tour of the Tony Award-winning Broadway show Kinky Boots. I was at the opening and reviewed the production. This originally appeared in print in the Las Vegas Weekly on Sept. 11, 2014, and can be seen on the Weekly’s website here.

REVIEW: BROADWAY’S ‘KINKY BOOTS’ KICK UP A SPARK AT THE SMITH CENTER

The first national tour of Broadway hit Kinky Boots—and the first national tour of any kind to start here—kicked off Saturday night at the Smith Center. Boots tells the story of unlikely business partners Charlie, heir to a shoe factory on the brink of bankruptcy, and Lola, a London drag queen with style and attitude to spare but not enough fashionable, sturdy footwear. When Charlie decides the future of his factory lies in serving this niche market, he goes all out to make it happen. All this is woven in with messages about acceptance (from fathers, from co-workers, from everyone), but while the emotional through-line of the characters is clearly (perhaps too clearly) laid out, it all feels a little anodyne.

On the other hand, it’s being told in an absolutely superlative manner. This is a high-gloss, over-the-top spectacular. Cyndi Lauper’s solid score fits firmly in the modern pop vernacular of Broadway orchestrations—synths and a beat—with at least one beautiful torch song (“Hold Me in Your Heart”) and chorus numbers that present the perfect palette for Jerry Mitchell’s barn-burner choreography and staging, ending each act with numbers that dip Busby Berkeley in Technicolor latex. Greg Barnes’ costumes make Mamma Mia! look as drab as Oklahoma!

The performances match the costume for sparkle. Steven Booth’s Charlie is meant to be a bit dull (the better to show off Kyle Taylor Parker’s Lola), yet Booth’s plaintive, expressive voice shines in “Not My Father’s Son” and “Soul of a Man.” Still, the show belongs to Lola. Parker’s unflagging energy, sultry voice and eloquent body language are equally at home doing drag numbers, torch songs or showing the intense discomfort of a three-piece suit. Accompanied by her Angels (Darius Harper, Tommy Martinez, Nick McGough, Ricky Schroeder, Juan Torres-Falcon, Hernando Umana), she provides particularly acrobatic highlights during “Sex Is in the Heel” and “Everybody Say Yeah”—the OK Go-inspired first-act closer featuring a treadmill-like assembly line. And Lindsay Nicole Chambers is a delight as Lauren, the comic relief love interest.

The show ends with a message of acceptance and affirmation and monstrous applause. It is a sweet, simple musical that earned my affection, if not my devotion.

 

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