Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

Kinky Boots
Olney Theatre Center
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Vincent Kempski and Solomon Parker III, center,
and Cast

Photo by DJ Corey Photography
The weather outside may still be chilly, but the Mainstage at the Olney Theatre Center is in riotous bloom with its joyful production of Kinky Boots. Director Jason Loewith has brought together some of the Washington area's top talents to share this sweet and timely story about forging the future from a difficult past, powered by Cyndi Lauper's propulsive rock and disco score and Harvey Fierstein's empathetic book.

First and most important, Solomon Parker III owns the stage every time he appears as Lola, the London drag queen who energizes Charlie Price (Vincent Kempski) to find success in unexpected places. Lola struts, he flirts, he takes no crap, and he always seems to stand taller than anyone around him.

Charlie has inherited his family's struggling shoe factory in northern England. Having grown up with his employees, he needs to keep them from losing their jobs and their purpose. An accidental meeting with Lola during a trip to London inspires him to shift the factory's product from traditional, even boring, well-made shoes to "two and a half feet of irresistible tubular sex" (Lola's description of stiletto-heeled boots) that hold up under a man's weight. Kempski's role has less flash than Parker's, of course, but he demonstrates both the character's backbone and openness to change through the way he carries himself and his soulful singing.

Choreographer Tara Jeanne Vallee gives the most impressive moves not just to Lola, but to the corps of six "angels" who provide backup support both onstage and off. Whether at the club where Lola performs or bringing attitude to the shoe factory, these dancers–on press night, Malachi Alexander, Quadry Brown, Robbie Duncan, Shane Hall, Daniel Powers, and David Singleton–glitter in Kendra Rai's rainbow of costumes and the elaborately sculptured wigs (in hues to match the costumes) designed by Larry Peterson. Actually, all of Rai's costumes deserve their own applause.

That said, Vallee's choreography is not restricted to the "performer" characters. She has created some ingenious moves on and around the factory's conveyor belt and a fancy tango for Lola and her main antagonist, Don (Chris Genebach). Genebach, along with Alex De Bard as an opinionated employee and Candice Shedd-Thompson as Charlie's snooty fiancée, give well-thought-out performances that flesh out more generic characters.

Christopher Youstra conducts seven other musicians from the keyboard, providing the necessary rich sound with a pulsing beat.

Kinky Boots runs through March 26, 2023, the Olney Theatre Center, Mainstage, 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road, Olney MD. For tickets and information, please call 301-924-3400 or visit

Book by Harvey Fierstein
Music and lyrics by Cyndi Lauper
Directed by Jason Loewith
Choreography by Tara Jeanne Vallee
Music director: Christopher Youstra
Based on the Miramax motion picture written by Geoff Deane and Tim Firth

Don: Chris Genebach
Mr. Price/Ensemble: Stephen F. Schmidt
Young Charlie: Grayden Goldman or Dustin Sardella
George/Ensemble: Karl Kippola
Lauren: Alex De Bard
Pat/Ensemble: Kaiyla Gross
Trish/Ensemble: Sarah Anne Sillers
Young Simon: Zach Cook or Henry Harleston
Simon Sr./Ensemble: Ricardo Blagrove
Nicola/Ensemble: Candice Shedd-Thompson
Charlie: Vincent Kempski
Harry/Ensemble: Calvin McCullough
Lola: Solomon Parker III
Angels: Malachi Alexander, Quadry Brown, Robbie Duncan, Shane Hall, Daniel Powers (through March 12), Connor James Reilly (after March 12), David Singleton
Richard/Ensemble: Stephen Russell Murray