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« May Flowers in "Bright Star" | Main | "Tell me about it, stud." »
Tuesday
May282013

Stage Door: Showgirls with Kinky Boots

I'll be out of the country for the Tony Awards this year on a much needed vacation but before they arrive I thought I'd share with you my final theatrical experiences of the season, the first of which is way Off Broadway (though close to Broadway geographically)  and the second is one of your major Tony contenders.

Both of them adapted from movies because that is what gets financed these days!

Elizabeth Berkeley (Nomi Malone) and Rena Riffel (Penny/Hope) in Showgirls (1995)

Showgirls: The Musical is playing Wednesdays and Saturday nights at XL Nightclub. I raced to see it with friends since I love the movie so much. Plus I was fascinated that "Penny" herself, excuse me, "Hope" ("no one wants to fuck a Penny!"), the actress Rena Riffel, is reprising her role for the stage. She's self-aware enough to embrace Showgirls infamy as a career (she's also the star of the straight to DVD Showgirls 2: Penny's Revenge) the way C list stars of certain sci-fi programs end up as geek convention regulars hawking their wares. It's a honest living! I totally wanted to hug her or at least let her sign my ass or something. What a good sport! [more on Showgirls and "Kinky Boots" after the jump]

For what it's worth the lead actress April Kidwell as "Nomi Malone" is great. She's pictured left and yes she really does lick that pole that ravenously as if she has no fears of communicable disease or is pumped full of tetanus shots. And Kidwell works hard for her money. "Singing. Dancing. Tits" just like the tagline promises. She brings a smokin bod, good comic timing, and a pretty mean impression of Elizabeth Berkeley's unforgettably spastic star turn from the movie. No one else approaches Kidwell's deliciously bonkers commitment but there are a few laughs (an actor as "Kyle Maclachlan" while the other actors play the characters - Hee!, Molly's "I'm a great judge of character") .

Maybe I wasn't drinking enough?

Unfortunately the sound system was so loud and muddy as to render the songs unintelligible so the only parts which will make you laugh like an idiot, should you choose to see it, are the jokes you can get without your ears, or the scenes that are lifted wholesale from the movie which you have memorized. You have memorized Showgirl. Don't let me down out there. It's not a Bad Movie We Love. It's an Unassailable Classic of Trash Cinema. And, as it turns out, its hard to spoof something that's already in on the joke.

I would love to report that this musical is "better than a 10 inch dick" but I cannot. I was very literally shocked at how funny Silence! the Musical was (even the title is funny!) which spoofed Silence of the Lambs a year or two back so I'm not against spoofs. In a way Off Broadway's love of spoofs plays, perhaps unintentionally, as a rude meta satire of Broadway's current obsession with adapting movies for the musical stage.

Speaking of...

Her name was Lola... she was a showgirl (Chiwetel Ejiofor on film, Billy Porter on stage)

KINKY BOOTS

The Cyndi Lauper / Harvey Fierstein stage musical adaptation of the 2005 drag comedy is, I am happy to report, a worthy transfer. Like the best of movie-to-stage adaptations, it has rethought the material sufficiently that it always feels like a stage musical and not (usually) like an awkward reenactment of scenes A through Z in the movie. In fact, I think it's much better than the movie.

If you haven't seen the movie in years or never a quick summary. The leading character is Charlie (Joel Edgerton in the movie, Stark Sands in the stage musical) who is the reluctant heir to a shoe-making factory. When his father dies and the factory begins failing, he has to rethink the family business or shut it down. Enter "Lola" (Chiwetel Ejiofor in the movie, Billy Porter on stage), a drag queen with troubles of her own. When she breaks a heel Charlie offers to fix it and the two form an unlikely bond - the idea of changing his drab shoe product to colorful kinky boots for female impersonators is born. When your business is failing, find an undeserved niche market. 

The movie was a cute but rather drab comedy so the transfer to a glitzy stage musical feels perfect. This time Lola really does bring color into Charlie's world - lots and lots of color, sparkles, and truly kinky boots. But it's not just the drag showmanship that reenergizes the shoe factory. It helps that the cast is really putting out here, giving it their all. I was actually worried for Billy Porter's vocal chords because he just attacks his huge songs. He's not reinventing the wheel in terms of "diva queen" character interpretation, but he's definitely always selling it. I was happy to see Stark Sands in the other much less showy lead role also nominated for Best Actor because he makes the most of a drab character and his voice is beautiful. If the name sounds familiar to you he was Charles Busch's gay son in the movie Die Mommy Die! and one of the soldiers in Generation Kill). But my favorite performance in the show belongs to Featured Actress nominee Annaleigh Ashford who plays one of the factory workers. She just kills her super funny first act solo in which she argues with herself about falling for her boss. The song helps, sure.

Annaleigh Ashford and Stark Sands fall for each other and Kinky Boots

You can hear a certain Girl Who Wants to Have Fun pop star composer in one of the hottest songs "Sex Is In the Heel" but the most surprising thing about Cyndi Lauper's score is that it rarely feels like a pop star has written a series of songs and then tried to string them together and hang them near story points. Lauper's score actually sounds like it should: like a composer has written a series of songs that are actually telling the story. Cyndi Lauper gets it in a way that other pop stars who've tried to do Broadway musicals often haven't.

Kinky Boots leads the Tony nominations with 13 and though it's likely to lose most of them to Matilda, which is shaping up to be a Tony juggernaut, the nominations are well deserved. I saw Kinky Boots with my best girlfriend from high school who was visiting with husband and kids and a few family friends. Our group was all ages and everyone had a great time. I hope Cyndi Lauper's own boots were made for walking right toward another property. Give us a second stage musical, Cyn! 

Other Theatrical Links
Playbill on Michael John LaChiusa's Giant... so sad I didn't hear about this one until after it was done. I keep hoping for LaChiusa to come up with another Wild Party and of all the films to transfer to the musical stage the grandeur of this one seems like a natural fit
Playbill why do theater producers now multiple cast children's roles? They didn't used to!
Broadway Blog Theater Buff - Philip Rosenberg of Pippin 
Pop Bytes says goodbye to Smash with a Reality Index - what's accurate and what's not about its take on theater? 
NY Times The Tony Awards Ballot. Who are you rooting for? 

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Reader Comments (5)

at least let her sign my ass

What's wrong with you?

May 28, 2013 | Unregistered Commenter3rtful

cyndi should get to work writing an original song for a movie - after she collects her tony award she's just an oscar away from egot

May 28, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterpar3182

I saw Kinky Boots a few weeks ago and was actually kind of disappointed. It was definitely entertaining and I really liked Cyndi's score (aside from that insipidly-worded Act I finale, that WEIRD boxing number, and some admittedly dull solos and duets), but I could. not. take Harvey Fierstein's book. Love him as a performer, love him as the Mayor of Broadway, but, in terms of writing, he's quickly becoming the Ryan Murphy of the Great White Way. And even then, Glee seems subtle by comparison. He's just screaming a lot of overly-simplistic, vaguely-detailed gender politics high up into the rafters, which in turn makes a lot of the show's essential elements suffer, including Billy Porter, who's a force of nature when in drag, but turns rather blah whenever he ditches the boots, burdened by Fierstein's own dubious characterization of Lola/Simon. I really wanted to love this musical for all its sincerity and earnestness, not to mention its seriously stellar choreography, but it really became a surprisingly frustrating experience, thanks in most part to Harvey, as well as those sketchy British accents, on everyone's part.

I will say Annaleigh Ashford was terrific though! She's like a singing-dancing Anna Faris.

And I think it actually does have a chance at beating Matilda, if only because Kinky has so many beloved and respected Broadway veterans involved in it. Also, Tony voters seem weirdly resentful of British transfers lately (i.e. that One Man, Two Guvnors snub last year), which is a shame, because Matilda is delightfully weird and weirdly adorable.

May 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Eng

I was so bummed to miss Kinky Boots in my Spring Broadway trip-you can only see so many shows, but it was one of the last ones cut, and I'd love to see Lauper win, if only because I'm a big fan. I'm cheering for Matilda (which I did see) in the Musical category though, as it was a lovely delight.

The FE sometimes does a rundown of the Best Actress Tony contenders-any chance of that this year (I know you're busy, just thought I'd ask)? I'm excited about the race brewing between Miller and Osnes for the Musical category (I figured it'd be a Miller stampede, but clearly Osnes is making a strong Broadway impression considering her nomination for a closed show last year and her recent Drama Desk Award). The Best Actress in a Play category seems to have Tyson's name on it, though I sort of wonder that if The Other Place was still running on Broadway if Laurie Metcalf could have a shot.

May 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJohn T

Extremly funny p*** take off les miserables starts with the bum notes at 6.18,why did anne get the oscar again!!!!

http://www.digitalspy.co.uk/odd/news/a472167/les-miserables-everything-wrong-with-musical-epic-video.html

May 29, 2013 | Unregistered Commentermark

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