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Nyoy Volante is astounding in the thrilling ‘Kinky Boots’

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Nyoy Volante is astounding in the thrilling ‘Kinky Boots’

Nyoy Volante as Lola with her high-kicking “Angels” in Atlantis Entertainment Theatrical Group’s production of “Kinky Boots,” directed by Bobby Garcia —PHOTO FROM ATLANTIS THEATRICAL ENTERTAINMENT GROUP

At a glance, one is tempted to place “Kinky Boots,” the new production of Atlantis Theatrical Entertainment Group, in the same category of musicals that artfully and wonderfully argue for inclusion in a complex society. Think “La Cage aux Folles” and “Priscilla: Queen of the Desert.”

But the material—book by Harvey Fierstein and music and lyrics by Cyndi Lauper—has a few tricks up its smart, sly sleeve. While it does rely on some familiar tropes, it bends them almost imperceptibly, eschewing stereotypes and platitudes to deliver a poignant, powerful message sans the preaching. No wonder it won six Tony Awards in 2013, including Best Musical.

Two different worlds

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The titular “kinky boots” refers to more than just the drastic reinvention of footwear the main characters needed to do. It speaks as well of the patience and craftsmanship required to weave together two different worlds—the drab, traditional English town dependent on a deteriorating shoe factory for its existence, and, on the other side of the river, the glittering neon-lit clubs alive with drag queens, booze and edgier living.

The bridge linking them is the unlikely friendship that grows between callow factory heir Charlie Price (Laurence Mossman) and star performer Lola (Nyoy Volante), whose incessant need for show footwear strong enough to carry a man’s weight occasions a radical reimagining of Charlie’s staid shoe factory—and eventually the environment around him.

To create these sparkly, bodacious but industrial-strength lady boots, Lola becomes Charlie’s chief designer, consultant, conscience and company gadfly. Not surprisingly, the arrival of Lola and his “Angels”—his back-up possé of sensational shimmying queens played by Gerhard Krysstopher, Mark Pineda, Ritz Beltran, Jorge Jahnke, Michael Jahnke and Jazztin Cacayan—would shock the town’s denizens and begin a (sometimes difficult) dialogue on diversity, inclusion and respect.

Candy-bright

Under Bobby Garcia’s direction, this candy-bright production evinces not one dull moment. The cast’s vaulting energy and exuberance carry them through the various vampy, high-octane numbers. Yet interspersed throughout are quiet, moving moments that lift the veil on the characters, making them easier to relate to and more similar to each other than they first realized.

Every major character experiences personal growth, in ways that surprise the audience. Jamie Wilson almost steals the show in certain scenes as the bigoted, macho-minded lout who shows the rest of his colleagues the meaning of loyalty and sacrifice. Yanah Laurel’s Lauren is the emancipated lady leader who turns a schoolgirl crush into a supportive sweetheart’s mature love.

While Charlie’s coming-of-age is a given, his finding a kindred fatherless soul in Lola is the forge that finally seals their friendship. Mossman gets the audience’s sympathy as the little lost boy struggling to become his own man, but he needs to work a bit on the one-note grown-up Charlie that he transforms into later in the play.

Depth and soul

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Lola’s own life-changing encounter happens in a musical number, but one away from the stage that has been his life. With just one other character in the wings, the moment shows that perhaps the ultimate act of courage is forgiveness.

Nyoy Volante disappears into the role, and his transformation into Lola is nothing short of astounding, especially when one realizes how far this role is from his exceptional Frankie Valli in last year’s “Jersey Boys,” also directed by Garcia. A lesser actor could have let the role slide into something more comic and satirical, but Volante gives Lola the heart, depth and soul of a fully fleshed-out character. That fantastic singing voice doesn’t hurt either.

All’s well that ends well in “Kinky Boots.” Along the way, there are tough life-changing choices—and some of the most thrilling, fun moments the audience will have in the theater this season.—CONTRIBUTED

Atlantis Theatrical Entertainment Group’s “Kinky Boots” runs until July 23 at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza, Makati. Visit ticketworld.com.ph.

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TAGS: Atlantis Theatrical, Bobby Garcia, Cyndi Lauper, Kinky Boots, Laurence Mossman, musical, Nyoy Volante, Play, Theater, Yanah Laurel
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