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Monday, June 17, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Review: ‘Kinky Boots’ is frothy, flamboyant fun

UPDATED: Wed., March 1, 2017, 5:50 p.m.

Rose Hemingway and Curt Hansen star as Lauren and Charlie in “Kinky Boots,” running at the INB Performing Arts Center through Sunday. Hansen was replaced midway through opening night on Tuesday due to illness.
Rose Hemingway and Curt Hansen star as Lauren and Charlie in “Kinky Boots,” running at the INB Performing Arts Center through Sunday. Hansen was replaced midway through opening night on Tuesday due to illness.

There is so much to like about “Kinky Boots,” the touring Broadway show that opened Tuesday night at Spokane’s INB Performing Arts Center.

The show is endearing, lively, funny, sweet and charming. The songs, written by 1980s pop icon Cyndi Lauper, are bouncy. The costumes are to die for. And those boots! They are the very definition of fabulous.

And with one notable – and understandable – exception, the performances Tuesday night were top-notch. Spokane fans of musical comedy will no doubt be high-stepping to the theater the rest of this week to catch the six-time Tony winner during its local run.

Ostensibly, the story is about a man trying to save his family’s failing shoe factory. Really, it’s a story about acceptance – accepting others for who they are and accepting ourselves.

Charlie Price, who has just moved to London with his fiance, is pulled back to his small hometown upon the death of his father. Faced with the prospect of running his family’s failing shoe factory, he initially decides to close it. As he’s giving employees their two-week notices, Lauren tells him off, demanding that he at least try, and suggesting a niche market just might be the factory’s salvation.

Inspiration for that niche market comes from Lola, a London drag queen that Charlie enlists to help him design “kinky boots” – fabulous footwear designed to withstand a man’s weight. With the goal of displaying the shoes in Milan, the factory kicks into gear, although not everyone is fully on board.

Tuesday’s night’s opener marked the tour debut of Timothy Ware as Lola. Ware is no stranger to the role, having been the standby Lola on Broadway previously. Still, his first couple minutes on stage, he seemed a little tentative in Lola’s impressive heels. It didn’t long for him to warm up, as he hit his stride midway through “Land of Lola.” By “Sex is in the Heels,” he was in complete command of the role. His big solo in Act II, “Hold Me in Your Heart” is a gorgeous torch song that was beautifully performed and staged.

The bigger performance issue Tuesday centered on Charlie. Lerria Schuh, a spokeswoman for West Coast Entertainment, said the actor Curt Hansen, who plays Charlie, had been ill for the past week. Hansen, a veteran performer who’s been in the Broadway companies of “Wicked,” “Next to Normal” and “Hairspray,” hoped to be able to perform Tuesday night, she said. By the end of his first solo number, “Step One,” it was clear his return was premature, as Hansen clearly was struggling with his voice. He was replaced at intermission by Ciarán McCarthy, who brought great energy and passion to his performance, and sold the heck out of his big second act number, “Soul of a Man.”

It was an unfortunate distraction, but not an unforgivable one, as there were plenty of solid performances in the first act. A highlight was Lauren’s number, “The History of Wrong Guys.” Rose Hemingway as Lauren is delightful with this number, which is easily the most Cyndi Lauper-esque song in the show. Hemingway brings a lovely voice, great comedic timing and a certain Cyndi “quirk” to the song. It was a lot of fun.

The storytelling is brisk and efficient. It didn’t feel like a nearly two-and-a-half hour show. Broadway legend Harvey Fierstein wrote the “Kinky Boots” book, and he keeps things moving at a good clip. The jokes are funny, the emotional moments are moving and the whole show feels well-thought out. And Lauper’s Tony-winning score is as frothy and thought-provoking as we would expect from the woman who gave the world “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” and “True Colors.”

Really, all of “Kinky Boots” was a lot fun. It’s the kind of feel-good show that’s perfect for our interminable winter. It’s warm and affectionate, fun and uplifting, joyful and affirming. It’s all pizzazz and sparkles and happiness. And who doesn’t like that?

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