This summer, the Muny presents a spectacular first regional production of the recent smash Broadway hit “Kinky Boots,” with a book by Harvey Fierstein and music by Cyndi Lauper. The musical is a celebration of finding your passion and being true to yourself, set to a glam rock beat backed by a chorus of drag queens and small town locals. 

Whether he’s aware of it or not, Charlie Price is in the midst of a personal crisis. His whole life, to this point, has been spent doing what makes other people happy. After his father’s death, he must make a choice between selling the family business and moving to London with his girlfriend or staying and trying to save the factory that employs many of his childhood friends and their families. Lola, also known as Simon, has finally made peace with her past and embraced her true self. 

Muny photos by Philip Hamer

When the two unexpectedly meet, each offers the other an opportunity to change their life. 

Graham Scott Fleming is compelling and likeable as Charlie, an average Joe who continually acquiesces to others. His transformation from milquetoast follower to visionary leader is emotionally connected and satisfying and his slightly gritty voice suits the rock infused songs, particularly in his confidence of crises song, “The Soul of a Man.” He’s matched up with the captivating J. Harrison Ghee as drag queen Lola and a powerhouse from her introductory “The Land of Lola” through the touching “Hold Me in Your Heart,” and Simon, Lola’s masculine self, who’s dapper, creative and a semi-professional boxer able to knock you out, if necessary. Though their worlds are completely disparate, the two connect and shine in their duet “I’m Not Your Father’s Son.”

Taylor Louderman is simply delightful as awkward local girl Lauren. From her lack of confidence to her surprising affection for Charlie, Louderman is completely sympathetic, and she’s particularly endearing in “The History of Wrong Guys,” a song that also flaunts her considerable comic talents. Caroline Bowman is perfectly self-absorbed and disgusted with small town life as Nicola, Charlie’s almost fiancée, but she doesn’t come across as cruel, just blissfully unaware. Paul Whitty adds a touch of bravado to the closed minded Don that adds dimension and builds credibility for the character’s much needed change of heart and John Scherer, as George, is clearly a fan of Lola, much to the surprise of the rest of the employees of Price and Son Shoes. 

The Angels – Callan Bergman, Ian Fitzgerald, Valton Jackson, Jacob Lacopo, Michael Olaribigbe, Kyle Post, Ricky Schroeder and Joey Taranto – are fabulous and their choreography is, in a word, thrilling. With excellent synchronization and spot-on vocals, Ghee and the Angels could easily take their act on the road and sell out houses night after night. Victor Landon is appealing and genuine as Young Charlie and Khaydn M. Adams will make your heart sing with the joy of discovery as Young Lola. The rest of the ensemble, which includes St. Louis talents Omega Jones, making his Muny debut as Simon, Sr. in one of the show’s most touching scenes, and Zoe Vonder Haar, are locked in for the intricate full cast numbers.

DB Bonds and Rusty Mowery successfully recreate Jerry Mitchell’s Broadway direction and choreography while ensuring the cast adds the necessary exuberant energy. From conveyor belts to a Milan runway with a pop art aesthetic, Michael Schweikardt’s set creates a gorgeous and complex background that perfectly suits each scene and Mowery’s slick choreography utilizes the set pieces to perfection.

Gregg Barnes costumes are character defining, and the drag pieces are over-the-top and 100% authentic. Nathan W. Scheuer, John Shivers and David Patridge provide sound and lighting design and Shawn Duan’s video design is seamlessly integrated with the show, adding dimension to both scenes and set changes. Ryan Fielding Garrett and Stephen Oremus provide strong music direction and arrangements, the sound is never out-of-balance and the orchestra successfully transitions from Broadway to glam-infused rock and roll without missing a beat.

The freedom of finally embracing and loving your true self, whomever that may be, is the hook that makes “Kinky Boots,” continuing through June 25, such a captivating and entertaining musical. The show, which is suitable for most audiences, features awe-inducing musical numbers and a genuine, heartfelt story, ensuring every moment captures your attention and pulls at your heartstrings.

At The Muny through June 25. For more information call (314) 361-1900 or visit www.muny.org.

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