ashland.news
June 22, 2024

Review: Oregon Cabaret Theatre’s ‘Kinky Boots’ pumps up the energy

Miss Jaye as Lola and Jonathan Cobrda as Charlie. Steve Sutfin photo
June 30, 2023

Musical sparkles with dazzling dancing, incredible costuming, strong acting and infectious music

By Lee Juillerat for Ashland.news

Rambunctious, rollicking and risqué.

“Kinky Boots” lives up to its name while energizing the stage at the Oregon Cabaret Theatre.

The Tony Award-winning musical is an energetic production with a truly huge-hearted message. Although the play sometimes stalls, it zips back into high gear with its dazzling choreography, powerful acting, incredible costuming and lively, infectious music.

The story features Charlie, who has inherited his father’s failing shoe factor in Northampton, England. Wanting to follow in the footsteps of his father, he finds inspiration and a reason to refocus its business from Lola, a dynamic drag entertainer in need of strong, sturdy stilettos. As the factory shifts its focus from more traditional footwear to a niche market, Charlie and Lola likewise change and evolve. Although they are two very different people, they learn from each other.

The deets
“Kinky Boots” is performed at 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Monday and Wednesday nights. Matinees are at 1 p.m. Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays. The show closes Sunday, Sept. 3. Reservations are required for preshow dinner or brunch. Appetizers, cocktails, beverages and desserts are available without reservations. Tickets are priced at $43, $39 and $29. The Cabaret offers a 15% ticket discount for groups of 12 or more for select tickets and performances; $15 student rush tickets can be purchased 30 minutes before curtain with a valid student ID, subject to availability. If it were a movie, “Kinky Boots” would be rated PG-13. To purchase tickets call the box office at 541-488-2902 or visit oregoncabaret.com.

As director and choreographer Keenon Hooks explains, “Throughout the course of the story we see glimpses of the lives of people from two different walks of life who turn out to be not so different, even if they appear to be on the outside. Our characters go through journeys of self-discovery, self-worth, acceptance, forgiveness and healing.”

The two leads, Jonathan Cobrda as Charlie and Miss Jaye as Lola, indeed sparkle as they develop their friendship. As Lola, Miss Jaye is especially fascinating — tall, lean, incredibly athletic with a penetrating voice. whether speaking or singing.

While the play focuses on the two leads, another key to the story focuses on Don, a rough, tough macho shoemaker. A series of happenings causes Don to reexamine his chauvinist persona. Another subplot involves Charlie and his fiancee, the very beautiful Nicola. When disputes bring their engagement to an end, the woman who becomes Charlie’s likely future is Lauren, who works in the factory. Lauren is less physically attractive but a far better fit emotionally.

“Kinky Boots,” which runs through Sept. 3, is also notable because it features the largest cast in the theater’s history.

The musical also has a history. Incredibly, its backstory stems from true events. In the 1990s a family-owned shoe business in England that was facing closure found new markets by designing ladies’ boots and shoes reinforced with steel to carry the weight of men. A BBC documentary told that tale, and the unusual shoes became known as “Kinky Boots.”

“Kinky Boots” the musical debuted in 2012. It earned 13 Tony nominations and six wins in 2013, including best musical, best original score and best actor. Notably, the music and lyrics are by Cyndi Lauper, best remembered for her 1980s hits like “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” and “Time After Time.”

The Cabaret production features many returnees, including Deanna Ott, Alex Boyles, August Gabriel, Austin Miller, Lauren Blair, Haley Jane Forsyth, Brianna Gowland, Owen Ing, Melanie Marie and Tyler Jack Ward Lemons. Along with Miss Jaye and Jonathan Cobrda, making their Cabaret debuts are Gracie Jurczyk, Teddy Wilson, Micah Jeremiah Mims, Matthew Tiberi, Jack Boyles, and Alia Imani Newman.

Hooks is making his Cabaret directorial debut after previously choreographing “Beehive” and “The Drowsy Chaperone” for OCT, and performing as the Tenor in “The All Night Strut.”

Helping to make “Kinky Boots” a dynamic production is its design team — set designer Joe Klug, lighting and projection designer Michael Stanfill, sound designer Graham Howatt, props designer James Paul Xavier and costume designer Kristie Mattsson.

Email freelance writer Lee Juillerat at 337lee337@charter.net.

Picture of Jim

Jim

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