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Kinky Boots dazzles the John W. Engeman Theater

Village by: Chrissy Ruggeri, May 24, 2022

A story of acceptance, empathy and pride, Kinky Boots made its debut this weekend at the John W. Engeman Theater and the performance was nothing short of spectacular. The tale, based on a book by Harvey Fierstein with music by Cyndi Lauper, begins at a men’s shoe factory in Northampton, England and ends on the glamorous catwalks of Milan, with characters you’ll have learned to love in just two hours.

When Charlie Price inherits his late father’s shoe business, he learns that the company is failing and the workers he’s known since he was a kid may be out of a job. Charlie then has a chance encounter with Lola, a bold, confident and dazzling drag queen who quickly complains about the inadequate footwear for men in his industry. With a nudge from Lauren, a shoe factory worker whose romantic feelings for Charlie grow throughout the show, the team moves forward on making “kinky boots.” Lola joins them as the designer.

Zach Hess, who plays Charlie, presents a genuine, open-minded and lovable character (with an amazing singing voice) who struggles with finding his own identity and purpose in the world. Omari Collins plays Lola and brings the audience to the edge of their seats with his provocative, yet endearing performances. Like Charlie, Lola (or Simon, his given name) is battling the expectations of society (and his father) to live the life that was built for him, even though it may not ring true in his heart.

The juxtaposition of buttoned up, khaki-wearing Charlie with sparkling and sassy Lola allows for a story of two people and the worlds they represent coming together for a common purpose. Perhaps the most profound scene of the play is Charlie and Lola’s duet called “I’m Not My Father’s Son,” which displays the bond between the two characters. It’s the most vulnerable moment of the play, allowing the audience to sink in and understand the emotional impact of their life choices.

Other high points of the show include all performances involving the “Angels,” Lola’s group of sexy, unabashed and inspiring drag queens. Looking around the multi-generational audience at Engeman this past Saturday night, during any scene involving the Angels, there were smiles ear to ear, people wiping away tears of laughter and howls of enjoyment.

Lauren, played by Lily Kaufmann, is another lovable character, with an awkward way about her as she navigates an unexpected crush on her boss, Charlie.

Beyond the stellar performances, the creative team elevates the musical with flashy and downright kinky costumes (hello, legs), moody lighting and actual slides (the ones you might find on a playground) on stage. There is no shortage of fun.
Put it all together and you get two acts of pure joy, all while experiencing an important reminder that when you accept others and let “pride be your guide,” you become capable of seeing change in yourself and appreciating it in others. There’s no better way to celebrate Pride Month in Northport than to experience this show at the Engeman Theater.

Kinky Boots runs until July 3 and will play the following performance schedule: Thursdays at 8pm, Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 3pm and 8pm, and Sundays at 2pm. Some Wednesday and Sunday evenings are available. Tickets are $80 for Saturday evenings and $75 for all other performances. They may be purchased by calling 631-261-2900, going on the Engeman Theater website, or visiting the box office at 250 Main Street in Northport Village.