Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Three Years Later, But Made it to Kinky Boots

Kinky Boots opened on Broadway on April 4, 2013. Two weeks later I had tickets to see the hot new show, but my father-in-law passed that very day and I never tried to see it again. Sitting in the Al Hirschfeld Theatre last night, I realized what a connection this show is for fathers and sons. My dad and my father-in-law were both more accepting of their sons' choices and lives than the two main characters in this musical, but I still couldn't help but think of them both while watching the show.

Based on the 2005 British film, the musical written by Harvey Fierstein with a score by Cyndi Lauper is basically an old-fashioned feel good musical and won 6 Tony awards. Charlie Price must step into his father's shoes in a failing business (making shoes) and when he meets a drag queen decides to create boots for a niche market. It's about letting go of preconceived notions of others and being who you are. The writing team uses La Cage Aux Folles as a blueprint (also written by Mr. Fierstein) where the drag queen is not one you would see on RuPaul's Drag Race (that can cut you with their tongue), but instead one that the straight people attending the theater will champion for and fall in love with. (The married man next to me loved the show.) And  why should he not? There is a lot to love on that stage.

The show felt very fresh to me with a very full audience (for a Monday night) after running for three years. I'm thrilled that the producers realize the show is the star and you don't need stunt casting because Alan Mingo, Jr. (having played the role in Toronto) is absolutely brilliant as Lola. Too many times I've seen actors in drag give a nod & wink to the audience, but Mr. Mingo inhabits the character and lives his life in all of his glory. I saw him last at Paper Mill Playhouse in The Little Mermaid and the same fire and dynamic personality he had then shines through again.  He is stunning to watch on stage! 

Aaron C. Finley recently took over the role of Charlie Price and has a wonderful singing voice, shares lots of acting levels, and tackles the challenge of his arc head on...and masters the red boots too!

The entire cast is wonderful under Jerry Mitchell's direction and choreography. Stage 'bits' feel as real now as when they were first blocked. I must give a shout out to Haven Burton and Daniel Stewart Sherman for two well done characters (without making them caricatures) and to Devin Trey Campbell as young Lola who has the moves!!

There is a lot of heart on the stage in this musical and a message that we should all be reminded of now and again. We're in a political climate where diversity seems to be a bad word...thanks to the cast and crew of Kinky Boots for reminding us that it's something to be celebrated! 

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Norbert and Girls, Girls, Girls

Some of the best concerts in New York City happen at Feinstein's/54 Below on 54th street. I've had many a great evening there, but never one where I wanted to run home and write about it.

Until tonight.

I am a huge fan of Norbert Leo Butz on stage. The man is an incredible singer, actor and puts his all into everything he does. (Hell, I saw Big Fish three times on Broadway because of him and then had the honor of playing his role this past June in a New Jersey production of that show.) But seeing him in a different surrounding - in a concert setting - it's pure magic. Don't go to Feinstein's thinking you are going to be hearing showtunes because Butz gives us much more. Taking us on a journey of dealing with all the numerous women in his life (daughters, wife, ex wife, mother, mother-in-law, nieces) he uses Greek stories of goddesses to weave a story that is engaging, enlightening, and pure entertainment. 

And then he opens that mouth and shares that voice that can send chills down my spine. There is a rawness and a truth in his singing that truly makes him one of my favorite male singers in New York City. I told my friend this evening he could easily have had a career as a country, blues singer had he decided to go that route. Lucky for us, he shares all of those colors in his song choices. Ruby Don't Take Your Love to Town, Sunny Came Home, Come on Eileen, and oh yes...there is ONE showtune....Wig in A Box from Hedwig (not a standard for sure). 

Michael Moritz Jr. is the MD/pianist and he is incredible at his job as well (the entire band is top notch). The arrangements that Moritz does is truly wonderful. The man really is a a genius in his own right as a producer of several shows and projects. 

I could have stayed there for another hour tonight because it's just that entertaining. Butz is a performer who doesn't believe in giving 1/2 of anything. His entire body, heart, and soul are there on that stage and the sweat pours off of him showing just how hard he is working. And yet...he makes it feel effortless. From accompanying himself on the guitar to singing a moving ballad - he holds an audience in his hands. It's obvious why he's so beloved in New York. Television may have grabbed him up with Bloodline, but he's New York's son and we're lucky to have him as ours.

Do yourself a favor and get to 54th street to catch this show. It runs several nights until August 12th. (You can also grab the CD of the show from Broadway Records.)