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REVIEW: Believe it or not, KINKY BOOTS THE MUSICAL tells us what makes a real man

KINKY BOOTS The Musical

Review overview

Performances 5
Direction 5
Choreography and Staging 5
Musicality 5
Production and Scenic Design 5
Entertainment Value 5

Summary

5 review score Atlantis Theatrical Entertainment Group's production of Fierstein-Lauper's KINKY BOOTS is one show you shouldn't miss this season. Like their recent productions, this one shines with talent and showcases a surprising set of local actors we can be proud of. More so, this feel-good musical comes with a tale that tells us that we could "change the world, if only we start changing our minds."

In the core of KINKY BOOTS The Musical is an unlikely balance between two differing poles. Though its two central characters seem to have come from separate worlds, there is this rare moment when both unmasked themselves to show how equal they are. Like a pair of shoes (or boots, for that matter) on the ground, both become as essential for each to move forward. To reach a goal, they realize that one cannot be without the other.

After all, this is a story about shoes, and actually more. Charlie Price had no other choice but to accept the family’s Northampton shoe business after his father died. The bad news is, the business is already on the verge of bankruptcy because men aren’t buying traditional Oxford shoes anymore. And then he meets Lola, a performer in London’s red district stage for the unconventional. See, Lola is not simply a transvestite, nor a woman trapped in a man’s body. She is a drag queen who makes a living out of performing in thigh-high heeled boots. And so when Lola makes a fuzz about high heeled shoes not being able to stand up against a full man’s weight, Charlie voluntarily offers to make shoes for her and tap on the possible niche market for people like Lola.

Nyoy Volante who did a great job as Frankie Valli in last year’s JERSEY BOYS, returns to the Atlantis stage as the fabulously herculean Lola. He projects this spirited performer for Lola’s drag stage, and obediently transforms to a timid confessor in his more emotional scenes. Volante takes on Chiwetel Ejiofor’s flamboyant eloquence for his spoken lines and Billy Porter’s believably tuckered out drag, yet his sense of rhythm and wit are originally his own. I have to admit that I was a bit hesitant when Volante was chosen as Lola. Though he can sing and act, Lola’s divine persona may pose as a challenge for him. I was wrong. Atlantis made the right choice. As Lola, Volante never attempts to act like a man pretending to be a woman, nor the stereotypical woman-trapped-in-a-man’s-body. He IS Lola: A drag queen. Period. And whenever Lola enters the stage, the crowd cheers. Every time Volante ends a song, the audiences roars even more.

Laurence Mossman as Charlie Price in ATEG's KINKY BOOTS The Musical
Laurence Mossman as Charlie Price in ATEG’s KINKY BOOTS The Musical

Laurence Mossman, who I first saw in FUN HOME early this year, transforms into the timidly introverted Charlie Price. Mossman’s Charlie eventually grows as the narrative progresses — from an undecided young man to a determined visionary, paving a chance for such actor to exhibit more than just versatility. And yes, he has his moments, especially during his ‘Charlie’s Soliloquy’ and “Soul of a Man.’ As Mossman develops, we see Charlie straighten up his stance and take a better chance of being a man. It is good to note, too, how Mossman tend to be as good as Volante during their scenes, further establishing this unlikely balance between two character who are initially poles apart.

As always, the Atlantis ensemble is a sight to watch. Yannah Laurel, as the dedicated and love-struck employee Lauren, cheers up the show every now and then especially during her ‘The History of Wrong Guys.’ Tricia Canilao who plays Nicola — Charlie’s self-absored fiancé — is effectively annoying as any thoughtless partner you’d know. Common faces in the Manila theater scenes like Jamie Wilson, Nel Gomez, Christine Flores, Sarah Facuri and Steven Conde also bring great joy in the cast, brilliantly establishing Northampton in 90s.

Nyoy Volante as Lola in ATEG's KINKY BOOTS The Musical
Nyoy Volante as Lola in ATEG’s KINKY BOOTS The Musical

But it is Lola’s Angels that steal the show. For me, that is. Like a set of Greek muses for Lola, these young male dancers (now dressed in drag) brim with wolfish delight. They varnish each of Lola’s big numbers with vibrant energy, and they sparkle like no other set of drag dancers I’ve seen in live theater. Gerhard Krysstopher, Mark Pineda Ritz Beltran, Jorge Jahnke, Jazztin Cacayan and Michael Jahnke are great gifts to our local theater these days. To see them is to see how back up dancing should be. Watch them. Watch them, please!

Director Bobby Garcia adapts this Harvey Fierstein and Cindy Lauper musical for the Philippine stage without much hesitation. Here, Garcia shows that there are no limits to what one can do for the growing theater audience in Manila. With Volante and Mossman on the helm, we see his influence to transform our local actors even more. Faust Peneyra‘s scenic design takes inspiration from David Rockwell’s original concept, impressively transforming it to something that fits the Carlos P. Romulo stage. His combination of rock, steel and wood presents the rustic back house of a struggling Southhampton shoe industry in the 90s and the small-town traditionalists who work in it.

Nyoy Volante as Lola and Laurence Mossman as Charlie Price in ATEG's KINKY BOOTS The Musical
Nyoy Volante as Lola and Laurence Mossman as Charlie Price in ATEG’s KINKY BOOTS The Musical

Halfway through Act 1,  Charlie comes to Lola’s rescue in the men’s bathroom after the latter intentionally locks herself away from her bashers in the shoe factory. You’ll see this in the movie, too. Here, Lola is dressed in men’s clothes — the only scene in the musical where she skips her frocks and colorful casuals. As Charlie attempts to comfort her, Lola tells her story in a heart-rendering confession (Not My Father’s Son). As Lola sings, Charlie mostly listens. It is at this moment when we see these two central characters as equals. Both are sons, trying to oblige to their fathers’ imposed legacies and dreams. Both were from the countryside, and both are called back to their roots to find purpose.

There is something quintessential in this scene. As Lola drops her usual flamboyance, Charlie dismisses his conscious efforts to please. Here, Garcia intentionally made them face each other on a par; dashing white light over their bare transparencies.  This rare silent scene in the show steals practically everything. We see Lola as human, and Charlie, too. In the space around them, we feel their regrets and we hear their honesty. Then, we measure their dreams.

Laurence Mossman as Charlie Price with the Ensemble of ATEG's KINKY BOOTS The Musical
Laurence Mossman as Charlie Price with the Ensemble of ATEG’s KINKY BOOTS The Musical

And it is only after this do we see both create something out of the ordinary. Lola finds her deeper purpose, while Charlie concretizes a dream. Funny, but as Fierstein’s narrative progresses, we see how Charlie and the rest of his employees learn much more than just making kinky boots for a new market. That to “man up” is actually more than just fighting and resisting. From Lola, they learned how to dream, to keep on keeping on, to embrace diversity and be who we want to be.

Like an uplifting parable with an unlikely guru, we learn from Lola what it takes to be a real “man.”

Nyoy Volante as Lola and the Angels in ATEG's KINKY BOOTS The Musical
Nyoy Volante as Lola and the Angels in ATEG’s KINKY BOOTS The Musical

Atlantis Theatrical Entertainment Group’s production of Lauper-Fierstein’s KINKY BOOTS is one show you shouldn’t miss this season. Like their recent productions, this one shines with talent and showcases a surprising set of local actors we can be proud of. More so, this feel-good musical comes with a tale that tells us that we could “change the world, if only we start changing our minds.”

FIVE STARS OUT OF FIVE!!!

 

 

Orly S. Agawin

The author Orly S. Agawin

Orly has been writing for The Jellicle Blog since 2008. He is a training and development consultant by day and an art enthusiast by night. He lives in Parañaque with his mom.

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