.‘Kinky Boots’ struts at 6th Street

April is the cruelest month is the opening line to T. S. Eliot’s 1922 poem, The Waste Land. But June has been no picnic for the North Bay theater community either. Transportation issues marred the opening of the Mountain Play while bouts of illness plagued other productions.

Napa’s Lucky Penny had to utilize an actor with script in hand for one of The Real Housewives of Napa Valley with a medical emergency. Sonoma Arts Live lost their entire opening weekend of Lend Me a Tenor after several cast members took ill, while Santa Rosa’s 6th Street Playhouse canceled the opening night performance of Kinky Boots to give their understudies a go at a run after illness took out a number of their players.

But, as either British actor Edmund Kean or circus impresario P.T. Barnum said, “The show must go on!” And so it shall for 6th Street’s production of Kinky Boots. The Cyndi Lauper/Harvey Fierstein musical runs in the GK Hardt Theater through July 7. 

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music in the park san jose

The story of a struggling, English family-owned shoe manufacturer and its unique solution to avoid closure was first told in a 1999 BBC television documentary. That broadcast inspired a “mostly true” film adaptation in 2005, and that film inspired the 2013 multi-Tony-Award-winning Broadway musical.  

Charlie Price (Noah Vondralee-Sternhill) has been avoiding the family shoe business for years, but the death of his father finds him back at the factory and dealing with the possible shuttering of the company. A chance meeting with drag queen Lola (Jonathen Blue) leads to a discussion about the lack of quality women’s footwear for men.

Then Charlie returns to the factory and begins to lay off his employees. He’s challenged by employee Lauren (Grace Kent) to find an underserved niche market and save the company. Charlie soon puts two and two together and enlists Lola’s help in designing footwear for drag queens.

There are, of course, obstacles to overcome. Charlie’s fiancé, Nicola (Nicole Stanley), wants him out of the shoe biz and in London. Factory workers like uber-macho Don (Skyler King) continually harass Lola. Soon, Charlie is cracking under the pressure.  

It all works out (of course). Soon Charlie, Lola and a cadre of drag queen angels are off to Milan for a make-or-break footwear fashion show and the unveiling of Lola’s Kinky Boots.   

Director Patrick Nims and his creative team have mounted a good production that is still struggling with some cast absences. Vondralee-Sternhill is excellent in the lead and is well-matched with the multi-talented Blue (he’s also the show’s costume/makeup/wig designer).

The bulk of the show takes place in Luca Catanzaro’s nicely-detailed factory set, complete with operating conveyor belts that led to one helluva wardrobe malfunction.  The audience absolutely ate it up. And kudos to performer Maureen O’Neill for singing and dancing (and laughing) her way through it.

Lauper’s joyous and emotional songs are performed to tracks. And while well-performed by all, a live orchestra is sorely missed.

Despite the challenges 6th Street continues to face in mounting Kinky Boots, the production holds up pretty well. Only a heel without a sole would think otherwise. 

‘Kinky Boots’ runs through July 7 in the GK Hardt Theatre at 6th Street Playhouse, 52 W. 6th St., Santa Rosa. Thur.-Sat., 7:30pm; Sat & Sun, 2pm. $29–$51. 707.523.4185. 6thstreetplayhouse.com.

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