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Mountain Play Review - Kinky Boots

Glitter & Glitz on Mt. Tam

Address: Cushing Memorial Amphitheatre
Mill Valley, CA 94945
Phone: 435-383-1100

Kinky Boots — High heels and hijinks on Mt. Tam

Review: Judith M. Wilson

Photos: Clara Franco

Miss Jaye as Lola (center) with the Angels

Hiking boots are more akin to Mt. Tamalpais than the glitzy, glittery footwear of the stage, and yet sequins and stiletto heels play a vital role in Kinky Boots, the Mountain Play’s 111th production atop Marin County’s iconic mountain. The story, though, goes beyond drag queen footwear to show what happens when an unlikely pair comes together to save a failing shoe factory. Relationships, unmet expectations and tolerance all come into play, as the factory’s workers and a group of drag queens join forces to save jobs and solve a weighty problem.

Cory Craven as Charlie Price and Miss Jay as Lola

Initially, the plot revolves around Charlie Price, a young man who inherits a shoe factory when his father unexpectedly dies. Although it was the senior Price’s dream that Charlie would one day take over Price and Son Shoes, the younger man and his fiancée Nicola have other ideas and are beginning to put roots down in London. The sudden call for Charlie to return to Northampton derails those plans, and a chance encounter with drag queen Lola puts him on a path he never could have expected. Northern California native Cody Craven plays Charlie Price with emotions ranging from anger and frustration to determination and, eventually, joy, as he struggles to turn around the family business and save the jobs of his employees, many of whom he’s known his whole life. Miss Jaye is Lola, a flamboyant drag queen, who has her own issues. She appears first in The Land of Lola, a high-energy number with her companions, the Angels, who are clad in flashy bright red clothing with white boots, while Lola sports a bright pink jacket, all in contrast to the drab garb of the factory workers. Imri M. Tate as Lauren, the office manager, also turns in a memorable performance, as she sticks by Charlie’s side and sees a chance of her own dream coming true, while he takes a longshot at a new product that just might save the business.

Cody Craven as Charlie, Miss Jaye as Lola and Imri M. Tate as Lauren

Cyndi Lauper’s music, under the direction of Daniel Savio, is at the forefront of Kinky Boots, and Not My Father’s Son is a particularly touching song, in which Charlie and Lola, who calls himself Simon when he’s out of drag, find common ground, as they reflect on their inability to meet their fathers’ expectations and still be true to themselves. Thor Townsend as Young Charlie and Tenzin Forder as young Lola/Simon are appealing as their childhood counterparts and are an integral part of telling the stories of their older counterparts. Direction and choreography is by Gary Stanford, Jr. II, who keeps the action moving briskly, while a 10-piece orchestra led by Jon Gallo keeps the music flowing.

Cody Craven as Charlie Price, Miss Jaye as Lola, and Gregory Lynch as George

In Act II, everyone needs to overcome obstacles. Charlie tries to find models to introduce a new line of footwear at a fashion show in Milan, and Lola struggles to gain acceptance. Diverse characters who would be unlikely to cross paths in other circumstances struggle to find ways to work together, and the subsequent lessons in tolerance and accepting people for who they are lead to a new perception of others.

Based on real events, Kinky Boots was adapted as a musical from a British motion picture with the same name. Music and lyrics are by Lauper—despite her previous lack of experience with Broadway musicals—and book is by Harvey Fierstein. The Tony and Grammy Award-winning show opened on Broadway in April 2013.

Kinky Boots delivers a timely message while ramping up the fun with energetic dance numbers, catchy tunes and extravagant costumes by Amie Schow. Meanwhile, Miss Jaye lights up the stage and brings the subdued atmosphere of the factory to life, until gradually, spirits lift, and everyone gets on board.

Cory Craven as Charlie

The Mountain Play takes place on June 8, 9 and 16 at the Cushing Memorial Amphitheatre atop Mt. Tamalpais. Shows begin at 2 p.m., and the show is ASL interpreted. Please check the website at mountainplay.org or call 415-383-1100 for tickets and current information.

The Mountain Play Café is not open this year, so take a picnic and visit the Rotary Club of Mill Valley’s kiosk, which offers drinks, ice cream and snacks. If you attend on Father’s Day, June 16, you’ll have an opportunity to enter the annual Closing Day picnic contest.