Josh Rittberg
Arts & Culture Editor

Kinky Boots which is currently playing at The Fulton Theatre tells the story of Charlie Price (Matt Farcher) who suddenly finds himself inheriting his fathers’ down-on-it’s-luck shoe factory. The factory struggles quickly and Charlie is saddled to find a business plan to save it.  On a night in London, he meets a drag queen named Lola (Darius Harper) who is in need of a good pair of heels. From there a partnership and friendship begins as they decide to work together in making sturdy boots for drag queens. Together they reinvent the factory as well as themselves as Lola teaches the factory lessons of acceptance and tolerance. This is an uplifting fabulous tale that is filled to the brim with heart and glitter. 

Darius Harper is an absolute marvel as Lola. From the moment he steps onto the stage in his show stopping number, “Land of Lola,” Harper is just a contagious ball of energy and life. He looks fabulous in his various dresses and costumes by Ryan J. Moller and is very funny and entertaining throughout. Yet, it is the vulnerability and heart he brings to this character that really stun. When Lola’s drag comes off and the audience sees him for the first time as Simon, he opens up to Charlie and others about his own family issues and personal scars in his life. Harper is particularly effective in the ballads, “Not My Father’s Son” and “Hold Me In Your Heart” as the character reminisces over his past and troubled relationship with his father. In Harper’s hands,  Lola is a beautiful three-dimensional character who challenges others to be their true authentic selves even when adversity hits. He is the shining star of this show and is truly incredible.

Matt Farcher is also excellent as Charlie Price. Although not as flashy as Harper’s Lola, he makes for a likable and compelling straight man.  He sounds particularly well on the character’s ballads such as the towering 11 o’clock number, “Soul Of A Man” as he bares his anxieties and soul to the audience. His best moments are his scenes with Harper’s Lola with whom he shares a sensitive and heartwarming friendship with. The two characters find connection in their shared father issues. Seeing them  lift each other up and find a connection despite their differences is incredibly touching. He also has nice moments with Michaela Bolt who plays his self-absorbed fiancee, Nicola. Although the two aren’t meant to be the best match for each other they do fine work in their scenes. Farcher has strong chemistry with the cast and makes for a charismatic lead.

Kate Fahrner puts in a very strong comedic performance as the quirky yet endearing Lauren. Lauren has a crush on Charlie even though he is engaged to Nicola. Her number, “The History of Wrong Guys,” is very funny as the character comically laments her past relationships with men. The song has a relatability to it that makes the character incredibly enjoyable. Fahrner never goes over the top in the role and instead lets the book by Harvey Fierstein and music and lyrics by Cyndi Lauper sell themselves. This decision works particularly well as her song is a strong showcase for this actress. She also shares nice chemistry with Farchers Charlie as they connect in their time making boots together. Fahrner is a comedic highlight and is a nice support to the two leads.

The ensemble for this show is particularly strong with various members being given a moment to shine and make a strong impression. Some standouts include: Bolt, as Nicola; Warren Kelley as the smart and somewhat sassy factory worker, George; Shane Donovan who gets a nice song in act one as Charlie’s friend, Harry; and Abby C. Smith as the hysterically sexually charged, Pat. Lola’s background drag queen dancers and entourage, The Angels, work particularly strong as a unit and bring great flair to their songs such as in the finale, “Raise You Up/Just Be.” The factory ensemble also brings a delightful sense of character to each of their roles. This is a cast of triple threats who give  great power and bring a refreshing life to the show.

Kenny Inagram’s choreography for this show is marvelous. With jaw dropping splits and tricks for The Angels in show stopping production numbers such as  “Land of Lola” and “Sex Is In The Heel,” these are dances that astound and truly hold attention. He also makes joyful and well developed group numbers such as the jubilant and rousing act one closer, “Everybody Say Yeah.” The dances also have various styles from  tango in “What A Woman Wants” to more character driven movement in Charlie’s rocking anthem, “Soul of a Man” and the comedic, “The History of Wrong Guys” which has Fahrners Lauren humorously flailing around the stage. The dances serve as extensions to the characters and truly impress.

Special credit must also be given to Moller’s stunning costume designs which include the iconic red boots that impress during their entrance late into the first act. The gowns for The Angels and outfits for Lola are appropriately flashy. Moller’s white gown for Lola’s  Whitney Houston-inspired torch song, “Hold Me In Your Heart.” is elegant and particularly beautiful. The wigs and makeup for the drag queens by Anthony Lascoskie Jr. is spot on as well.The sequined red dress for Lola in the finale is worth the price of admission alone as it shimmers on the stage. The costumes, much like the other elements, are  simultaneously suited for the characters, while also being a delight for the eyes.  

The rest of the physical production is gorgeous, with detailed set work by Robert Andrew Kovach. The factory setting with working fans that extend far back onto the stage brings a sense of place with appropriately scrappy walls and surprises hidden throughout. Yet, the final white curtain set, in this critics’ eyes, should have been more colorful to reinforce the vibrancy of the show. With that reservation aside, the set design is overall very strong and commendable. The same can be said for the lighting by Jesse Klug which is appropriately flashy for the drag club scenes and production numbers, while subtler and more nuanced for the quieter moments of reflection. The set and lights once again set a new bar for The Fulton and are a joy throughout.

The direction from Marc Robin is terrific. He gets fully developed performances from the entire cast, and captures a great sense of infectious fun.  The band for this show has a particularly vibrant music direction by Ben McNaboe that brings a bright pop to Lauper’s high energy score. Robin creates strong character moments and a sense of heart across the whole cast, and deserves to be commended for bringing this important and  timely tale of tolerance and acceptance to The Fulton, as well as to the Lancaster community. He brings out the heart in this tale that truly lets the show shine.

The Fulton Theatre’s  production of Kinky Boots is a toe-tapping and celebratory night at the theatre that carries the important  message of living life as your true authentic self and to love others for who they are. This  show with a joy-inducing score by Cyndi Lauper and a heartfelt and hilarious book by Harvey Fierstein is a great night of musical theatre that one would be an utter heel to miss.