Joseph Glaser & Tyler Tate in Kinky Boots. Photo: Redline Performing Arts

Kinky Boots

Music & Lyrics by Cindy Lauper
Book by Harvey Fierstein
Based on the Miramax motion picture written by Geoff Deane & Tim Firth
Directed by Zachary Boone

A review by Regina Harris

Entire contents are copyright © 2024 by Regina Harris. All rights reserved. 

From the pre-show disco music to the end of the raucous performance, Redline Performing Arts and Pandora Productions co-created an electric piece of theatre Friday night. Kinky Boots examines what it is to “be,” however it is you identify; as well as what it is to be a curious child and a conflicted adult. How does one find love and community when they don’t fit exactly into a social construct; or the grace to accept others just the way they are? In his program notes director Zachary Boone references having a dream of a cast, and they truly are. Each actor created characters who were not only relatable and insightful but a tremendous amount of fun.

It’s hard to know where to begin, as virtually every aspect of this play was so well done; but overall, the cast squeezed every bit of sexiness out of the wonderful music and choreography in ways that would make Frank-N-Furter blush. The heat factor in “What a Man” alone was astronomical, largely due to The Angels, the glorious Angels! Ale Betts, August Anderson, Noah Robinson, and Javon Vanlier as Lola’s drag queen family, pushed the audience over the edge with their dazzling dancing and artistry. I was taught as a child not to gape, but as Lola noted “You know you want to look” so I indulged in absorbing each of their magnetic and brilliant performances. 

And then there’s Tyler Tate. Need I say more? (I will anyway.) Tate’s exacting physical duality as Simon/Lola was mind-blowing. The Louisville theatre community is beyond blessed to have a performer of Tate’s range and caliber grace our stages. Tate’s facility in delivering a snappy comeback while revealing deeply buried emotions with as little as a mere glance is amazing. And that’s before we get how incredibly he rocks a red beaded fringe dress and heels.

The casting worked extremely well. Derrick Palmer made an endearing Don, a brawny and priggish factory foreman at Price and Son Shoes. Don is challenged to see things differently and accept people for who they are. A big man, Palmer looks intimidating, but he is completely loveable and relatable in his journey from uninformed to understanding. Peighton Radlein sparkles as Charlie’s love-crazy but awkward assistant Lauren. Her physical comedy, paired with her wonderful vocals was impressive. 

As for the child actors (all 5th graders at Lincoln Performing Arts), Knavi Clayton as Young Lola could not have been more courageous in revealing the contraband desires of a young boy who loves red spike heels. Ezra Davis and Tony Wright are double cast as Young Charlie, a privileged child of whom business success was expected. The kids provided poignancy to the characters of Grown Lola, still longing for familial acceptance; and Grown Charlie, trying to save the business he inherited despite a complete lack of business skills. 

However, these are just a few of the many highlights. I felt a sense of their cohesiveness as a cast family. Clearly, between Redline Performing Arts and Pandora Productions, they experienced positive encouragement to embrace their characters, and space to enjoy themselves fully. The standing ovation began virtually the second the play ended. 

Bottom line…run, don’t walk to get tickets. This is a three-week run, but you have only two more weeks to enjoy the experience Kinky Boots

Featuring August Anderson, Ale Betts, Kristy Calman, Knavi Clayton, Stephanie Collins, Russell Cooper, Ezra Davis, Alex Dawkins, Joseph Glaser, Lauren Goodman, Michelle Lori, John Magness, Derrick Palmer, Collette Priddy, Peighton Radlein, Lawrence Robertson, Noah Robinson, Tyler Tate, Javon Vanlier, Shauntrice Wilson, & Tony Wright.

Kinky Boots

April 5, 6, 11, 12, 13, 18, & 19 @ 7:30 pm
April 7, & 14 @ 5:30 pm 
April 15 @ 7:00 pm
April 21 @ 2:30 pm 
(no show on April 20 due to Thunder Over Louisville)

Henry Clay Theatre
604 S. Third Street 
Louisville, KY  40202

Regina Harris has lived in Louisville for nearly three decades and has worked in various capacities for many of its theatre companies and venues. She holds a degree in Humanities from UL and works as a Youth Development Specialist at United Crescent Hill Ministries. To express her love for great food and Louisville history and architecture, she is a guide with Louisville Food Tours.