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Apr 20, 2024

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The Broadway Musicals – Part I

Matilda vs. Kinky Boots

photo-1forweb  Those signature red “kinky” boots were made for walking, dancing, and Tony… the best musical Tony, that is. Inspired by the 2005 film about an unlikely duo, Kinky Boots is the story of two guys – one who inherited the family shoe company, and the other who performs in drag –  each feeling he didn’t live up to his father’s expectations. Through this strange friendship, they end up healing each other and themselves.

Kinky Boots was the new musical with the most nominations – 13, and nabbed six awards at the 67th Annual Tony Awards, including “Best Musical.”  The high-stepping show was the right fit for Grammy Award winner Cyndi Lauper, who made her Broadway debut writing the music and lyrics and won the Tony. Jerry Mitchell was nominated twice as “Best Director” and “Best Choreographer” – bringing home the award for his inventive, energized choreography.  Born in Paw Paw, Michigan, Mitchell is proud of his half-Polish lineage.

Billy Porter has a big role with heart and soul and walked away with the “Best Actor” award for his portrayal of Lola.  This home-grown musical with a book by 3-time Tony-winner

photo Harvey Fierstein is fine, funny, and charming, and has a great score by Lauper.

Riding the heels of Kinky Boots, Matilda – The Musical had 12 nominations, winning 4 awards in lesser categories. Based on the popular Roald Dahl children’s novel, a determined little girl outsmarts everyone with knowledge and mischief.

Matilda swept London’s Olivier Awards – including one for Tony nominee Bertie Carvel as the tyrannical headmistress Miss Trunchbull.  Gabriel Ebert received a Tony for “Best Featured Actor,” playing the daft, shortsighted, over-the-top father.

Nominee Lauren Ward plays Matilda’s teacher-to-the-rescue, Miss Honey; she is the true center of the show and gives a beautiful heartfelt performance.  Being the only character to connect to, you find yourself “rooting” for her alone. Other sections and characters are fine, but on a whole it’s not my “cup of tea.”

The general sense among critics was that since the show was so popular and successful in London, it was going to walk in and take all the awards; that did not happen. Matilda received overwhelmingly enthusiastic reviews from New York critics, though a better assessment can perhaps be found in the New York Times reader’s comment section.

photo-4forweb  The score and lyrics are complex and the subject matter and heroine – dark.  Despite having a large amount of its children’s vocals pre-recorded (not often found on live Broadway), it is difficult to discern what is happening on stage. The production team wanted the music loud, as can be evidenced throughout the show.  The recorded vocal track sections give the show at times a theme-park quality.  The use of strong authentic English regional accents clouded the articulation and American comprehension of the words; emphasis on diction would have sufficed.

If the show was better understood, the people that saw it would actually understand the lyrics and dialogue.  Audience members remarked about this problem openly – during the show and at intermission; some even said the show should have been subtitled.  I saw it twice and it left me cold; however after the second viewing I got a better import of some of its cleverness and artistic worth.