Matthew Murphy
April 09, 2013 at 04:00 AM EDT

Sometimes audiences just wanna have fun. And you’d be a heel not to have fun at Kinky Boots, a new musical based on the 2005 British indie film about an unlikely bromance between a young man who inherits his family’s failing shoe business and the drag queen who, in her words, ”would give my left tit for a shoe that could stand up to me.” One cause for celebration is the infectious Top 40-ish score by ’80s pop star Cyndi Lauper. Another is Billy Porter, who portrays drag queen Lola with enough sequined swagger to make RuPaul look like a wallflower.

Yes, the story tends to flag when the focus shifts to the reluctant shoemaker, Charlie, played by the sweet-voiced Stark Sands (American Idiot) with boy-next-door winsomeness. Charlie’s saddled with a too-obviously-unsuitable fiancée (Celina Carvajal) and a factory love interest (Annaleigh Ashford, who nails her hilarious first-act solo, ”The History of Wrong Guys”). There’s even a working-class bloke (Daniel Stewart Sherman) who must learn an after-school-special-worthy lesson in tolerance by the final curtain. Like the script, by Broadway veteran Harvey Fierstein (Newsies), director-choreographer Jerry Mitchell’s production isn’t perfect — the cast’s British accents are as wobbly as an elephant in stilettos.

Whenever Porter is on stage, though, he elevates a musical that might otherwise seem like a club-ready mash-up of La Cage aux Folles, The Full Monty, Billy Elliot, and Cabaret. Porter displays remarkable vocal versatility, making showstoppers out of three very different but equally catchy Lauper tunes: the disco song ”Sex Is in the Heel,” the affecting ballad ”I’m Not My Father’s Son,” and the Whitney Houston-like anthem ”Hold Me in Your Heart.” Thanks to Porter’s star-making turn, Kinky Boots delivers some pumps-up kicks. B+

(Tickets: Telecharge.com or 800-432-7250)

type
Stage
run date
04/04/13
director
Cast
Annaleigh Ashford,
Stark Sands
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