KB_TwitterBy Manning Harris

The Tony-winning Best Musical (2013) “Kinky Boots,” with a book by Harvey Fierstein and music and lyrics by Cyndi Lauper, is playing at the Fox Theatre through April 3.

This is a show that knows how to “give ’em the old razzle-dazzle,” as they say in “Chicago.” But more than that, “Kinky Boots” has a great big heart whose primary message is simple but powerful: Accept people as they are, and accept yourself while you’re at it.

It’s a message that the huge audience at the Fox took to its heart last night; I’ve seldom heard such cheering, especially once the show gets rolling.

The story, based on a 2005 British film, would seem wildly improbable were it not, in fact, based on truth. There’s this shoe factory in Northampton, England, named Price and Son, but it’s not doing too well, and the father is counting on his son Charlie (Adam Kaplan) to keep things rolling.

Charlie, however, has no real interest in it, and is eager to move to London with his fiancée, Nicola (Charissa Hogeland). Unfortunately, the elder Mr. Price (Tom Souhrada) dies suddenly, and the factory workers look to Charlie to take over.

Before Mr. Price leaves the world, Charlie is mugged in London and rescued by Lola (J. Harrison Ghee), a drag queen headliner whose club is dire need of some well-made “fetish footware” to support the cast as they perform. Thus begins a most unlikely friendship between Charlie and Lola, both of whom discover that they have fathers whose expectations for their sons have not materialized—at all.

Both Mr. Kaplan and Mr. Ghee deliver outstanding performances; Mr. Ghee’s is more flamboyant, of course, but both exude an abundance of charm and decency. They also sing and dance extremely well.

Back at the factory, a worker named Lauren (Tiffany Engen, who delivers a delicious comic performance) finds she is falling for Charlie, who realizes that his romance with Nicola was quite superficial in the first place.

In an incredible turn of events, it happens that to save the factory, Charlie realizes that he must design a woman’s boot that can also be comfortable for a man. In addition, in a fashion show in Milan, Charlie is forced to walk the runway himself; this scene you must see for yourself.

The actors are all first rate, including Aaron Walpole, Jim J. Bullock, Zack Adkins, and many others, including those mentioned above.

Some of the fun musical numbers are “The Most Beautiful Thing in the World,” “Land of Lola,” “Sex Is in the Heel,” “Not My Father’s Son,” “What a Woman Wants,” “Soul of a Man,” and “Raise You Up/Just Be.”

The show is directed and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell; scenic design by David Rockwell; costume design by Gregg Barnes; music supervision and arrangements by Stephen Oremus.

There is an underlying sense of fun, wit, and joy that pervades the piece; this is no accident, considering that Harvey Fierstein wrote the book. Mr. Fierstein specializes in lifting people up, in his plays and performances.

And I think one reason the audience response is so fervent is that the show is such a relief from the dreary, negative political times we seem to be enduring.

At any rate, this lighthearted musical is brilliantly performed and may be just the tonic you need; and the actors seem delighted to be here in the vast Fox—imagine that.

For tickets and information, visit foxtheatre.org.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.