Kinky Boots is a Sweet, Sexy Strut across the Phoenix Theatre Company Stage

(Reg Madison Photography)

I never knew what I was missing in life until I saw a group of drag queens dancing in an English shoe factory, singing about sexy high heels while the slack-jawed shoemakers watch in shock. Luckily, the Phoenix Theatre Company’s “Kinky Boots” has it all, from gorgeous costumes, lush set designs, and so many brilliant moments, it will leave audiences uplifted, enlightened and invigorated.

The story of “Kinky Boots” starts with Charlie (Andrew Poston), a conflicted man from a small town who takes over his late father’s shoe factory. Money problems lead to layoffs, which seem to spell disaster until Charlie tries — and fails — to rescue a drag queen being harassed by a group of thugs.

That’s Lola — known as Simon when she’s out of costume — who is played by the phenomenal Darius Harper. He elevates the entire performance with his incredible talent. Not only is he a force to behold while he’s singing as Lola in the club, proudly strutting around in a sparkly dress and filling the theatre with his powerful voice, but he’s also a farcical comedian, throwing his hands in people’s faces or dragging out words and dancing in the middle of sentences.

Yet, Harper also infuses a layer of tenderness and vulnerability behind all of Lola/Simon’s theatrics, especially in “Not My Father’s Son” a duet he shares with Poston. His voice quivers with emotion and his eyes fill with sadness as he recalls his father, who was a professional boxer.

While the character of Lola/Simon is as multifaceted as the LGBT community he introduces Charlie to, there’s one trait that stays the same: The ability to steal the show every time he’s on stage. After the show, I immediately cracked open the show’s brochure, expecting to see an expansive resume of movies, Broadway shoes and maybe even a cameo on Glee. Not so, but I’m calling it now: Someday he’s going to be a household name.

Image courtesy of Reg Madison Photography

He’s not the only cast member who blows it out of the water, though: “Kinky Boots,” written by Harvey Fierstein with music by Cyndi Lauper, has a huge cast, and as always, it’s stuffed to the brim with talent. Some actors who shone in the large cast were Joseph Cavazos as Don, a tough worker who antagonizes Lola to the point where they both jump in the ring.

This leads to one of the most visually stunning moments in the play: “In This Corner” is a song during which two men fight, but instead of an actual fight, it’s beautifully choreographed with slow-motion punched accentuated by vivid lighting and booming music that pumps up the audience.

Poston’s voice and charming air lend Charlie a much-needed dash of likability, which is especially useful when the story pulls his character in slightly unbelievable directions. With a grand voice and a varied range, he sings Charlie’s many songs with an emotional and impressive flair. Although she only has one solo song, Kaitlyn Russell is hilarious as charming as the tough yet lovestruck Lauren. Another factory worker, although nameless, was made a comedic presence and a bit of a scene-stealer through Lauren McKay’s gruff yet hilarious delivery.

Directed by Pasha Yamotahari, “Kinky Boots” is a technical marvel with gorgeous mood lighting by designer Daniel Davisson, excellent choreography by James Kinney and Alex Nordin, and outfits by costume designer Cari Smith that were so eye-popping and beautiful, I hope they’ll join the ranks of previous costumes that are now displayed in mannequins throughout the theatre’s waiting area and bar.

After 100 years in business, the Phoenix Theatre Company has made a knack of striking gold, and “Kinky Boots” is no exception: It truly feels like a Broadway show in the middle of Phoenix. It’s got the excellent technical elements, and the star power that gets you excited to see where its performers will do in the future. With an uplifting story and captivating performances by its talented cast and crew, “Kinky Boots” is not to be missed.

“Kinky Boots” runs until Oct. 13. See more showtimes and buy tickets here.

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