GETTING KINKY WITH JAKE AND WAYNE

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Ed and I originally saw “Kinky Boots” when it was still in previews.  We had treated each other with reciprocal Broadway tickets for Xmas, because we had high hopes for a Harvey Fierstein / Cyndi Lauper musical collaboration.  The performance ended with the audience in ecstatic jubilation, echoed by the critics after opening night, and four years later “Kinky Boots” is still going strong on Broadway.

K2Broadway tickets being rather expensive, even half price at the TKTS booth, Ed and I are not likely to see any show more than once, no matter how much we like it.  But then Jake Shears, the lead singer of my fave pop band “Scissor Sisters” took over the lead role of Charlie Price, and his tenure at “Kinky Boots” would overlap for 4 weeks with “Whose Line Is It Anyway” improv comedy performer extraordinaire Wayne Brady playing the other lead role Lola.  Two of our favorite idiosyncratic talents starring together in one of our favorite shows.  Four years after our first joyous visit, we decided we would treat ourselves again.  Half price tickets at the TKTS booth.  Still had to pluck down 9 Harriet Tubmans (currently still Andrew Jacksons), but we took the splurge.

One delicious irony of the current casting is that the flamboyant gay guy is playing the straight guy and the straight guy is playing the drag queen.

K3Armistead Maupin writes rock star Jake Shears on stage “is a triumphant explosion of unembarrassed carnality and charm”.  So it is amusing to see him play the straight-laced shoe factory owner, the middle of the road regular guy.  And be so convincing.  And look so awkward in high heeled boots.  Only when the choreography allows the character to cut a rug does Shears’ natural flair and ease of movement shine through.

K4In contrast Wayne Brady as the flamboyant drag queen Lola is more contained than I expected.  His ease with song styles and occasional camping it up is legendary on “Whose Line”.  In “Kinky Boots” Brady eschews any hints of easy caricature and focuses on keeping it real.

Original leads Stark Sands and Billy Porter, Tony nominated and Tony winning Best Actors in a Musical respectively, suited the roles of Charlie and Lola ideally.  Shears and Brady essay characters quite foreign to their public personas.  And all bring down the house with aplomb.  Four years later the audience is still celebrating with unabashed enthusiasm at the disco-terrific uplift that concludes “Kinky Boots”:

Raise You Up / Just Be – Kinky Boots Original Cast

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During intermission I purchased Jake Shears’ autobiography, titled “Boys Keep Swinging” after the David Bowie song (even though I suspected I was being price gouged and the economically pc thing would have been to patronize my local Community Book Store – First World Liberal problems).  Shears’ book opens with this magnificent flourish:

I was born a showman.  For years, even my birth played out in my head as a grand entrance.  I assumed my mother’s giant stomach had exploded in some public place, followed by a balloon drop, confetti canons, and people celebrating in the streets.  It would have been a mess, a gory birthday party, with a lot of cleanup involved, not to mention my poor mother would have had to have been put back together.

Shears follows through with beautiful writing, as I can attest so far from reading the first chapter pedaling away at the gym while listening to Scissor Sisters through my ear buds.  I don’t often read books while listening to specifically curated music, but perhaps I should make it a habit.  It feels like good advice from the handbook of “How to Turn Mundane Moments of Life into a Gesamtkunstwerk”.

Speaking of “Boys Keep Swinging”, and just to make this piece even more fabulously LGBTQ, here is Lea DeLaria singing “Boys Keep Swinging” from her swell jazz album of David Bowie covers “House of David”:

Lea DeLaria – Boys Keep Swinging

Finally I’ll leave you with some details from the Al Hirschfeld theater, where “Kinky Boots” enters its fifth year on Broadway.  It has one of the finest interiors on the Great White Way, enhanced by framed prints of Broadway caricaturist Al Hirschfeld, whose iconic bevelled line drawings of Broadway shows span seven decades of theater history.

The Foyer:

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Dick van Dyke and Chita Rivera in “Bye Bye Birdie”

 

The Theater:

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About dannyashkenasi

I'm a composer with over 30 years experience creating music theater. I'm also an actor, writer, director, producer, teacher and general enthusiast for the arts.
This entry was posted in LGBTQ Alphabet Soup, Literary Lyricism, Live! On Stage, Melodies Linger On, Two-fisted Touristing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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