Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Kinky Boots, winner of the 2013 Tony Award for Best Musical and honored for Cyndi Lauper's pulsing rock and disco score, is an old-fashioned story at heart. Fierstein's book, based on the 2005 screenplay by Geoff Deane and Tim Firth, concerns Charlie Price (Adam Kaplan) and his efforts to keep the family shoe factory in business - and how a chance encounter with Lola points his efforts in a new direction.
Director and choreographer Jerry Mitchell keeps the action bubbling, whether in the moments involving Lola and her backup "angels" or the more down-to-earth scenes in and around the factory. While the story has elements of tension and uncertainty, no one really doubts that Charlie will give up a life selling real estate in trendy London with his high-maintenance fiancée Nicola (Charissa Hogeland) to save the jobs of the shoemakers, that factory worker Lauren (Tiffany Engen) will get what she hopes for, and that burly Don (Aaron Walpole) will make peace with Lola.
Ghee's performance lives up to the larger-than-life personality of Lola (he's tall even without the stiletto heels), just oozing with attitude as he struts, sings, faces down the difficulties in his life, and deals with rejection by striking back. Charlie is necessarily a less flashy role, but Kaplan confidently takes him from uncertainty through inspiration to success. Engen gets her great solo moment too, pouring out "The History of Wrong Guys" as she sees the changes in Charlie, and everyone in the cast knocks him- or herself out to engage the audience.
Mitchell's fluid staging makes the most of David Rockwell's scenic design with its metal staircase, tall industrial windows and, in one inspired bit of choreography, treadmills. Gregg Barnes' costumes are amusing at times and generally perfect for the characters, and Kenneth Posner's lighting design helps create a variety of locations on the unit set.