Jul 11, 2017

[Theater] Kinky Boots (Atlantis Theatricals Entertainment Group) Review


Ever since I first caught Kinky Boots in a limited cinema engagement, I've totally loved the movie and have repeatedly watched it over the years. Sure, it feels like another small town sob story sort of like The Full Monty or something but it's also a lot more than that - and I'm not just saying that because of the drag queens.

But in many ways I had always felt that the movie would always be something totally under the radar and thus was a cultural novelty that I could treasure and only choose to share with specific people on a limited basis. So I was totally surprised to find out that it had been adapted into a full Broadway musical - and a rather successful one at that. But hey, it worked for Hairspray, right?

Synopsis: Kinky Boots is a musical based on the movie of the same name. The play has a book by Harvey Fierstein with music and lyrics by Cyndi Lauper. The original Broadway musical was nominated for 13 Tony Awards and won 6 of them including Best Score and Best Musical. The local staging was handled by Atlantis Theatricals Entertainment Group and was directed by Bobby Garcia. That play ran from June 30 to July 23, 2017 at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium at the RCBC Plaza in Makati City.

Charlie Price (Laurence Mossman) represents the fourth generation of Price & Son, a shoe factory in Northampton known for its quality shoes. While young Charlie (Rocco Canilao-Buser/Albert Silos) had no interest in shoes, another boy (Teddy Velasco/Pablo Palacpac) was obsessed with them - women's heels in particular. Charlie grows up eager to leave his small town and seek a life in London. The other boy becomes the drag queen Lola (Nyoy Volante).

But just as Charlie is settling into a real estate job in London with his fiancee Nicola (Tricia Canilao), his father (Rhenwyn Gabalonzo) dies, leaving the factory as Charlie's responsibility. And things aren't looking good as they've just lost a major deal despite having spend the past year working on fulfilling the order. Now Charlie needs to find a new niche market to salvage the factory or many of the people he had grown up with like a second family would be out of a job. And somehow the solution for this men's shoe factory lies in with a drag queen named Lola.

What I Liked: A lot of this story relies on Lola being a kickass, fierce drag queen and Nyoy Volante fully delivers in this regard. I love how much he embraced this character and fully committed to it and thus he was a delight in every scene. Not only did he deliver key lines from the movie quite well, but at times he made sure to add his own spin to thing to make the role his own. Another standout performer is Yanah Laurel who portrayed Laura, the young woman who helped show Charlie that there was more that he could do other than bemoan his fate.

In addition, I truly loved how this musical was a great homage to the movie. Some of the funniest bits that had the whole house laughing were more often than not lines lifted directly from the movie. It's a testament to how good the original movie was given how things translated so well. And of course there's Cyndi Lauper's music. Her choices for this play included a wide range off musical styles but with some key ballads that distinctly sounded like her with Laura as her more obvious representative.

This is an amazingly fun musical and the Atlantis team really did the original movie and the original Broadway production justice.

What Could Have Been Better: There were still those technical annoyances that seem to happen with Atlantis or perhaps with the venue, this mainly being how the music is often a lot louder than the vocals. There were some inconsistent mike levels that didn't balance out the group numbers so some singers were rather distinctly louder while others got swallowed by the accompanying music. And in terms of overall pacing things felt a little rush as if they were aiming to maintain a certain runtime at the cost of losing some dramatic or comedic build-up for key scenes.

I wasn't to thrilled with Mossman's performance as Charlie as he didn't quite fully embody the role as I knew him in the movie. He was sometimes the appropriately mousy guy whose only act of rebellion was leaving home but then he didn't quite maintain that well. And then we get to the singing which was rather pitchy at times to a painful degree. To be fair, the score is not easy, especially when it comes to a lot of his songs that really require him to belt it out and this is where he'd often go off-key. Canilao was also rather forgettable as Nicola, but she wasn't quite a central character so I guess we can let that go for now.

TL;DR: Kinky Boots is a fun celebration of the original movie, of Cyndi Laupers music and of being yourself. It's a letter of love to all the rebels out there who just want to be themselves, even if it involves being six inches off the ground. Thus the musical gets 4.5 campy Angel back-up drag queens out of a possible 5.


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