[Herald Review] ‘Kinky Boots,’ if your spirit needs lifting

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Dec 10, 2014 - 20:57
  • Updated : Dec 10, 2014 - 20:57

Seoul’s performing arts scene in December is chock-full of timeless classics and feel-good shows to lure theater goers as well as novices who want to celebrate the end of the year with some cultural experiences.

“Kinky Boots,” the six-time Tony Award-winning musical currently on its first non-English-speaking run in Korea, seems to be at the top of the pack.

Opened Dec. 3 at Chungmu Art Hall, the show is a delightful mix of Broadway glitz and glam, uplifting songs and a heartfelt message about difference and acceptance.

The musical is based on the true story of a shoe factory owner in northern England who saves his business from bankruptcy by catering to a new niche market ― kinky boots for drag queens.

The audience during Sunday evening’s performance gave several rounds of applause to the drag queen character Lola, played by Oh Man-seok.

In fact, it is almost impossible not to root for the character.

Like “La Cage” (currently running in Seoul),” “Priscilla” (closed in September) or other famous musicals with a queer theme, the lady impersonator is portrayed as someone with irresistible charm and full of positive energy. 
A scene from the musical “Kinky Boots.” (CJ E&M)

In “Kinky Boots,” it is Lola who inspires Charlie, the straitlaced owner of a struggling shoe business played by Kim Moo-yeol, and his factory workers to open their minds and accept others and themselves.

“It’s ultimately such a universal story: a story about two guys (Charlie and Lola) who seem to be a failure in the eyes of their fathers,” Jerry Mitchell, the show’s director and choreographer, said in Seoul late last month before the Korean run opened.

“If you follow the story, you’ll see how the characters change, and as they change, they change everybody around them,” he explained.

The show’s strongest point is, however, its rousing numbers composed by Cyndi Lauper, including “Sex Is In The Heel” and “Everybody Say Yeah.”

“Everybody Say Yeah” is the impressive first-act closer and one of the highlights of the show, in which Charlie, Lola and factory workers celebrate their first pair of kinky boots by dancing on conveyer belts.

Another highlight is the show’s finale, which is a grand fashion show in Milan with “Raise You Up/Just Be.”

Among Korean cast members, the acting and singing of Jeong Sun-ah who plays Lauren, the factory girl with a crush on the boss Charlie, is near perfection.

With music and lyrics by Lauper, a book by Harvey Fierstein, and both direction and choreography by Mitchell, the original show premiered in Chicago in 2012.

It had a Broadway debut last year, with a nearly $1 million investment from Korean entertainment conglomerate CJ. It snatched up six Tony Award trophies, including best musical.

The Korean rendition of “Kinky Boots” continues through Feb. 22 at Chungmu Art Hall, located near Sindang Station on Seoul subway lines No. 2 and 6.

Ticket prices range from 50,000 won to 140,000 won. For details, call 1544-1555.

By Lee Sun-young (milaya@heraldcorp.com)