Stephane Duret as Lola and Matt Farcher as Charlie with the cast of “Kinky Boots” at Maine State Music Theatre. Photo by Jared Morneau Photography

Maine State Music Theatre in Brunswick kicked off its final main-stage production of the season Thursday with an effervescent rendition of the six-time Tony Award-winning “Kinky Boots.”

Based on a true story, the musical transports the audience to England on the wings of an uplifting score by pop icon Cyndi Lauper, masterly executed by Ben McNaboe and his seven-piece orchestra. With detailed sets, flamboyant costumes and an exceptional cast that delivers heart and soul, MSMT’s production is pure joy.

“Kinky Boots,” tells the story of two boys – one the son of a shoe factory owner and the other with a passion for women’s shoes – from rural England. Although seemingly different, both boys struggle to live up to their fathers’ expectations. Fast forward to them as adults, and Charlie Price (Matt Farcher) is heading off to London with his social-climbing fiancée, Nicola (Taylor Quick), when his father (Jay Poff) unexpectedly dies, leaving Charlie with a failing factory to save. He by chance meets the other boy, Simon (Stephane Duret), who is now a drag queen named Lola. Together they discover “you change the world when you change your mind.”

Director Marc Robin has a gift for bringing out the best in his cast, and this is evident in “Kinky Boots.” Farcher and Duret are dynamic as Charlie and Lola. Farcher delivers exquisite vocals and genuine emotion that artfully bring his character to life. Duret, who performed the role on Broadway, positively pops as Lola, not only capturing every nuance of the character’s drag queen persona, but also captivating the audience with soulful vocals. Both shine on their Lauper-penned solos and together drive home the heartfelt message of the musical on the duet “Not My Father’s Son.”

There are plenty of entertaining drag numbers woven into the feel-good musical that make the audience smile from ear to ear. Lola and her six Angels (Joshua Bellamy, Jonathan Bryant, Donovan Hoffer, Jalen Michael Jones, Devin Price and Chad Takeda) dazzle as they deliver high kicks and acrobatic feats while executing Kenny Ingram’s high-energy choreography.

There are a lot of gems in the 24-member cast. Liz Shivener is fantastic as Lauren, a factory worker and longtime friend of Charlie. She has a natural knack for comedy and her plucky melodic soprano is a perfect fit for Lauper’s musical style. Shrivener is an absolute delight in “The History of Wrong Guys.”

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This production is one that could be watched multiple times and would still offer up something new to love each time. There are that many things to watch and appreciate. Other standouts include Blake Hammond as George, Nathaniel Hackman as Don, Abby C. Smith as Pat and Taylor Quick as Nicola. Aidan Walton and Milo Livingston are adorable as young Charlie and Lola.

Lauper’s score beautifully highlights the cast, particularly in the Act 1 closer “Everybody Say Yeah” and the finale “Raise You Up/Just Be,” which features the full company dancing in the unforgettable red boots that inspired the musical’s title.

MSMT’s production of “Kinky Boots” is not only an achievement for the theater, but also a personal triumph for Robin as director. He was staging “Kinky Boots” at the Fulton Theatre in Lancaster, Pennsylvania (where he is executive artistic producer) in 2020 when the pandemic hit, closing the production after only one week of performances. Being able to stage the production again at MSMT offers hope that the dark times of the past two and a half years are nearing an end. Robin’s jubilation shines brightly in MSMT’s “Kinky Boots,” making it impossible not to fall in love with the production and its phenomenal cast.

April Boyle is a freelance writer from Casco. Contact her at: [email protected]
Twitter: @ahboyle


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