Archive for Gregg Barnes
Kinky Boots has been well received by national critics; the production may feature bad English accents and a poorly conceived second act, but that’s not what audience members will remember most vividly. The successes of the production are both memorable and loud, outshining deficiencies. Cyndi Lauper’s songs are eclectic and varied, engaging and catchy — there are anthems in both acts that will linger in your head after you’ve left the theatre. Harvey Fierstein’s book fits the bill, but it may be the strong performance of Billy Porter that truly makes the story come alive. Check out “Kinky Boots” for a feel-good story with all the expected Cyndi Lauper flair.
NEW YORK TIMES
“Try to resist if you must. But for at least the first act of this tale of lost souls in the shoe business, you might as well just give it up to the audience-hugging charisma of [Cyndi Lauper’s] songs….It’s a shameless emotional button pusher, presided over — be warned — by that most weary of latter-day Broadway archetypes, a strong and sassy drag queen who dispenses life lessons like an automated fortune cookie. Yet, for a good while, “Kinky Boots” manages to ride over the skeptical grumbling of your conscious mind…The leading players here — notably Stark Sands, Billy Porter and Annaleigh Ashford — pick up on the trademark Lauper mix of sentimentality and eccentricity, but each makes it his or her own…This is fortunate, since we’ll need to cash in those vibes in the show’s second half, when the preachier aspects of Mr. Fierstein’s script take over, and all the clichés stand naked before you….the show recovers its first-act zip and zeal with its finale, “Raise You Up/Just Be,” one of the best curtain numbers since “You Can’t Stop the Beat”…If your memory is forgiving, that’s what you’ll take away from “Kinky Boots,” along with that first-act anatomy of the irresistible sex appeal of a perilously high heel.”
“Thank goodness for songwriter Cyndi Lauper, playwright Harvey Fierstein and the seven fierce drag queens led by a fabulous Billy Porter in the new musical Kinky Boots…this is a musical that comes alive when the lithe and towering men in heels appear. The show that opened Thursday at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre is so full of good will – did you expect anything less from Lauper or Fierstein? – that only a curmudgeon could walk out and not want to hug the crowds in Times Square…True, the second half is almost completely unnecessary, the English accents are laughable and the footwear puns are relentless. But who cares? This is a big ol’ sweet love story about sons, the families we make and red patent leather. Lauper’s catchy, pop-rock soundtrack reflects her ever-evolving taste…Fierstein, also represented on Broadway right now with the book for Newsies, spins his typical theatrical magic, teasing out from the movie both a love triangle and the pull-push of fathers and sons. But the real star is Porter, who delivers a touching, sassy, nuanced performance, often in 8-inch heels….Gregg Barnes’ costumes are schlubby when they need to be and high-beam outrageous when they need to be…Some footwear even got ovations…Elsewhere on Broadway, Cinderella may have her expensive slippers, but it’s likely she’d really love to snag a pair of what’s on offer at Kinky Boots.“
“As timely as this show suddenly seems to be — it posits an ideal world according to Harvey Fierstein, wherein struggle leads to self-acceptance, which leads in turn to public triumph — there’s nothing whatsoever that’s time-bound about Cyndi Lauper’s cheerfully audacious, toe-tapping score….[Kinky Boots] has taken the best of its predecessors…and applied real freshness to familiar formula. Crucially, the style of the production matches the creative identities of the composer and the book writer…There is a new determination to Fierstein’s writing, peppered as always with pedagogy and comedic sugar. Thankfully, “Kinky Boots” avoids the mushy mid-Atlantic traps that befell the likes of “The Full Monty” (a worker-empowerment movie with a very similar plot to “Kinky Boots”), and it similarly dances away from the hyperkinetic excesses of “Priscilla” and the like (David Rockwell’s savvy set is modestly scaled), offering just enough social realism that the world seems always centered in the believable. Drag queens onstage always do best when there are sharp contrasts, and so it goes here: The director-choreographer Jerry Mitchell, whose work is a clever cocktail of flash, grit and nuance, has cast a plethora of zesty character actors and allowed them to forge not so much a traditional ensemble….Lauper’s impressively varied numbers — whether it’s the ballad “The Soul of a Man” or the danceable “Sex Is the Heel” — are the sting in the tale of “Kinky Boots.”…If any show could kill the appeal of the jukebox musical, this is that piece. Lauper might be no Adam Guettel, but the weapon of musical surprise has rarely been so deftly wielded.”
“Lauper has made a career out of celebrating her extravagant individuality and everybody else’s with the unpretentious chutzpah of a true-blue Queens girl. The fact that her infectious spirit shines through every number in her first Broadway musical score is unquestionably the chief asset of Kinky Boots, helping to elevate the show above its familiar template. The novice composer-lyricist is also a good match for Harvey Fierstein, whose warm-hearted book for this aggressively uplifting musical hews close to the 2005 Miramax movie, making smart choices when it does diverge…this might be the shakiest assortment of fake English accents ever assembled on a Broadway stage. However, David Rockwell’s set brilliantly evokes the superannuated grittiness of every depressed British small-factory town…As predictable as the show is, it’s saved by how neatly the material plays to both Fierstein and Lauper’s strengths… the toe-tapping songs show an impressive range of styles and are smoothly integrated into the story…If Mitchell the director too often favors cartoonishness, his work as a choreographer has just the right punch, and Lauper has delivered him a rousing self-affirmation curtain number in which the entire cast gets to strut their stuff…It also provides the cue for costumer Gregg Barnes to pull out all the stops in the glitz-and-heels department. The generic “Just be who you wanna be” refrain might be recycled from countless other Broadway musicals at this point, but audiences craving feelgood candy will eat it up.”