PHOTO/DAVID ROBERT: A scene from Bruka's production of Kinky Boots.

Two days before the opening-night performance of Kinky Boots at Brüka Theatre, I was having dinner with colleagues.

One of them, whom I don’t know well, decided this was a good time to plunge into the controversial issue of transgender women using women’s public restrooms—specifically, that just because such individuals had “decided” they were women, they didn’t have a right to invade women’s bathrooms. To avoid an ugly confrontation at a work event, I simply said, “I really disagree with you,” and turned to talk to someone else.

It was prescient, I suppose, that I’d just bought tickets for myself and my family for Kinky Boots. Although the stage musical is a decade old and was inspired by a 2005 film of the same name, the issues this story raises—and its relevance to active discussions, like the one I just described, and the furor over drag queen story hour—are striking. In fact, it couldn’t have been better timed for Brüka’s 30th season to wrap with this heartwarming extravaganza of a show, for which the rights were only just released to small, local theaters.

Inspired by true events, this musical by Harvey Fierstein and Cyndi Lauper tells the story of Charlie Price (played by Michael Davanzo), heir to the Price and Co. men’s shoe factory, who resents being forced to … well, fill his father’s shoes after the old man (Rodney Hurst) dies and leaves him to run the failing business.

When the company’s biggest customer cancels all its orders, Charlie must find a way to unload his inventory and give his employees the boot—unless he can reinvent the company to target a niche, underserved market. Miserable about his work and his always-disappointed fiancée, Nicola (Kristina Worthley), Charlie stumbles into an alley and encounters a woman being assaulted. But this woman is actually a drag queen named Lola (John Paul Rivard). The assault left one of her high-heel shoes broken, and Lola remarks that there seem to be no boots capable of handling her.

Charlie follows Lola into a club and watches her perform with five other queens, the Angels. He becomes fascinated by her strength, talent and taste. Suddenly, a lightbulb switches on in his mind: Lola and her Angels are his niche market. With her input and killer style, Price and Co. could reinvent itself.

The two have a lot more in common than shoes, it turns out. When not in drag, Lola is Simon, and deep down, he’s still the vulnerable, misfit boy who desperately craved his father’s approval—and never received it. As the story unfolds, Charlie and his employees must reckon with their own ideas of gender, acceptance and what “being a man” really means.

When Rivard takes the stage as Lola, the whole room lights up. He’s magnetic. He is not only hilarious and gifted at delivering one-liners; his stunning, big, soulful voice knocked my socks off (so to speak). His duet with Davanzo, “Not My Father’s Son,” moved me to tears. Davanzo is also to be commended for his strong, capable voice in some challenging songs.

I can’t forget the spectacular Angels, played by Stephen Moore, John Wade, Tom Cruz, AJ Clopton and James Escobedo. Not only did they pull off their drag characters with enormous heart, wit and unflagging energy, but they did it while wearing heels that made me pale with disbelief.

Kinky Boots is a challenging show, no matter how you slice it. It calls for strong vocal abilities, and a few cast members fall short here. In a couple of places, the singing seemed out of sync with the music, and some notes simply couldn’t be hit. And I’m in agreement with many theater critics who highlight the script’s tendency to make sudden, unexplained shifts in character and story that are hard to swallow.

But these minor kinks in Kinky Boots should in no way keep you from enjoying this truly delightful, heartfelt, funny show. It’ll just make you feel good.

Kinky Boots is performed at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, through Saturday, July 22 (there are no shows on July 5 and July 9), at Brüka Theatre, 99 N. Virginia St., in Reno. Tickets are $33 with discounts in advance. For tickets or more information, call 775-323-3221, or visit bruka.org.

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