In the Flesh: Kinky Boots at Centennial Hall Delivers Sweet Heart

These boots are made for dancing. And singing. And for delivering rip-roaring entertainment liable to leave you breathless.

Kinky Boots, winner of the 2013 Tony Award for Best Musical, has landed in Centennial Hall this week, courtesy of Broadway in Tucson, the group that makes sure Tucsonans can go about their lives humming plenty of show tunes. And if you want to laugh and cheer and have the cockles of your heart warmed and wowed, you’d better hop on this thing before it’s gone. Or sold out.

The show, which is based on a British 2005 movie, has been refashioned by Harvey Fierstein (book) and Cyndi Lauper (music and lyrics) to celebrate living out loud the person you are. Even if you are challenged  every inch of the way by small minds, find your calling, find your courage, find your soul.

It’s encouragement we all need and it’s most assuredly a show for these days.

The story is a bit complicated, but here’s the short version: A young man, Charlie (Curt Hansen), inherits his father’s factory that makes sensible shoes and he takes a huge risk, converting the factory to making footwear for drag queens: kinky boots.

The inspiration for Charlie’s decision is the most fabulous Lola (Timothy Ware.) A glorious entertainer with a group of talented lovelies, she becomes Charlie’s business partner. Along with the boots, the factory cranks out plenty of drama, as Simon, much more comfortable as Lola, must challenge not only the disdain of some of the factory workers, but the boss himself, a man unsure of what to do with his life. Lola and Charlie, different in many ways, find strength as they struggle with each other as well as with their own insecurities.

It’s hard to imagine this touring production being much better. Directed and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell, it’s high energy, grandly staged, and gloriously costumed, all coalescing to deliver a story with a very sweet heart. The spot-on performances of the entire company lead us on a joyous journey that culminates in an irresistible finale. Yes, the storytelling sometimes feels contrived, but it still resonates because of the strength of the performers and the explosive power of music and dance.

Ware as Lola is a marvel. He was the understudy for the Broadway Lola, and he is nothing less than full of the life that makes the world go ‘round. Sensitive, cocky, sweet and powerful, Ware struts in his glorious costumes, dances his booty off and makes the most of every moment onstage. This show would fall as flat as sensible shoes without a powerhouse as Lola, and Ware finds both her humor and humility. Our hearts simply swallow his creation.

Hansen also finds a fully-fashioned man in Charlie. He can be a bit whiny and a lot angry, but his heart slowly opens to himself and the world beyond what’s comfortable and safe.

Really, all the actors bring us full-throated characters. Aaron Walpole as Don, the big lug who has no use for Lola, discovers that he’s a big lug with a big heart. Understudy Julia McLellan owned a goofy-but-charming Lauren, the factory worker who’s got the hots for Charlie. And Lola’s team of “Angels” dance with flash and freedom and irrepressible exuberance.

Here’s something. Don and Lola make a bet that the winner of a boxing match to settle their differences will do the bidding of the other. Although Don wins, he’s curious about what Lola would have him do. He reads the slip of paper he was handed: You must allow a person to be who they are. Don responds, “What does that mean?”

Really? Is that it? We don’t really understand what that means?

Kinky Boots, in its humor and heart, gives us a high-flying, high-stepping, leave-it-all-out- there Big Clue. Get a ticket to this thing. Now.

Kinky Boots
Presented by Broadway in Tucson
Various times through Sunday, March 19
Centennial Hall
102 E. University Blvd. on the University of Arizona Campus
Run time: 2 hours and 20 minutes