Song & Stage

Theater Review: Gateway’s ‘Kinky Boots’ Is Full of Heart and High Heels

The Broadway sensation makes its fabulous East End debut.

After a successful six-year run on Broadway, Kinky Boots closed earlier this year, and The Gateway wasted no time announcing that the production would headline their 70th summer season. With music and lyrics by Tony, Emmy and Grammy award-winning artist Cyndi Lauper and story by Tony Award winner Harvey Fierstein, Kinky Boots is electric, combining high heels with high expectations, and sends a message of acceptance, tolerance, love and the freedom to be who you were meant to be. With 12 Tony nominations and six wins, including Best Musical and Best Original Score, Kinky Boots is a modern musical marvel you do not want to miss.

Charlie Price is heir to his family’s shoe business in Northampton, England, but has no interest in it and instead sets off to London with his fiancée. Shortly after, he receives news that his father has died, and he rushes home to find his factory on the brink of closure.

Terry Lavelle (center) as Lola with The Angels. (left to right) Kyle White, Louis Williams Jr., Alex Dorf, Alex Zarlengo, Scotty Jacobson and Oz Shoshan
Lola (Terry Lavelle) with The Angels—Kyle White, Louis Williams Jr., Alex Dorf, Alex Zarlengo, Scotty Jacobson and Oz Shoshan, Photo: Jeff Bellante

By chance he encounters a woman being accosted in the streets and is knocked unconscious as he attempts to help her. He awakens in a seedy club, in the dressing room of Lola, the “woman” he attempted to save earlier. Charlie is shocked to learn Lola is a man dressed in drag, and the two begin to form an unlikely friendship. Charlie inspects the shoe that knocked him out, a large boot with spiked heels, and inspiration hits. What if there was a niche market for boots made for drag queens, shoes that could support the weight of a man? Could this save the factory? He enlists Lola’s help—albeit reluctantly—and convinces his new friend to come to Northampton and help make these one-of-a-kind shoes.

Lukas Poost as Charlie and Terry Lavell as Lola in Kinky Boots
Charlie (Lukas Poost) and Lola (Terry Lavell), Photo: Jeff Bellante

Charlie Price is portrayed by Lukas Poost, who gives the performance of a lifetime as the confused, well-meaning, slightly spoiled (and adorable!) heir to Price & Son. Poost has a voice that resonates from every pore of his body, singing not just from the heart, but with his entire being. His performance is riveting, full of conviction and heart. Determined to prove himself and save the factory, Charlie begins to change into a man for whom his late father would have been proud.

Terry Lavell is awe-inspiring as Lola. When his Lola steps onstage she commands attention, each movement precise, strong, graceful. And when she dresses down as “Simon” for work at the factory, her vulnerability is raw. She’s an unstoppable force of nature: The way she is able to change the views of the small-minded factory workers is nothing short of miraculous.

Lola’s “Angels,” her extraordinary troupe of drag queens steal the show with the force of their performance and their jaw-dropping dance moves. The delightfully outrageous wardrobe changes are never ending, and the anticipation of Lola’s Kinky Boots unveiling at the Milan fashion show puts everyone on edge.

At the center of this compelling story is the music, with deeply personal lyrics as our two leads have struggled throughout their lives for acceptance from their fathers. The music is the heartbeat of this production, with the cast as a pulsing lifeline that weaves a powerful story. Poost and Lavell are dynamic together and they drive the production upward.

Charlie (Lukas Poost) and Lola (Terry Lavell) with The Angels—Oz Shoshan and Alex Zarlengo
Charlie (Lukas Poost) and Lola (Terry Lavell) with The Angels—Oz Shoshan and Alex Zarlengo, Photo: Jeff Bellante

This was Lauper’s first foray into writing lyrics for a stage production. Her storytelling and musical flare are inspired and there is a familiarity that grabs hold of you from the start. “Everybody Say Yeah” still reverberates after the show, and the ballads “Not My Father’s Son” and “Soul of a Man” are deeply emotional. Memorable numbers include “Land of Lola,” where we meet Lola’s Angels; “Sex Is in the Heel,” a delightfully sexy and raucous romp; and “Raise You Up/Just Be,” the thrilling finale that will bring you to your feet. Kinky Boots is overflowing with everything you want—amazing music, incredible casting and a story that will touch your heart.

The Gateway consistently brings the best of Broadway to Long Island, and Kinky Boots is another example of the talent and passion behind their team.

The Gateway’s production of Kinky Boots runs through September 14 at Patchogue Theatre. For tickets and info, visit thegateway.org.

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