Members of the cast of Kinky Boots. Photo by Matthew Murphy.
Members of the cast of Kinky Boots. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

Open any newspaper, turn on the television, or scan your Facebook feed and there is a new world order that is frightening the hell out of a lot of people. History has shown that in times of unprecedented fear and loathing comes a need for escapism. There is a collective need to forget, even for a short time, what is happening in the real world.

That is where shows like Kinky Boots are so darn attractive. Big, flashy and with name recognition from the likes of Cindy Lauper, it provides a two hour respite from the doom and gloom outside the cozy confines of the local theatre.

With Kinky Boots though, along with the temporary escape, there is also a message. And it is a fine and laudable one about acceptance and celebrating what makes each of us unique. While simple and to-the-point on its surface, this message goes way beyond the Kinky Boots story of how a drag queen helps save a shoe factory.

But there is also be a huge difference between having an admirable message, and delivering it effectively on stage. Fortunately the production currently on stage at Vancouver’s Queen Elizabeth Theatre has J. Harrison Ghee to help deliver that message.

In the role of drag queen, Lola, Ghee not only has the look, he also has the vocal and acting skills to bring her to life. Ghee’s is a remarkable performance of credibility, vulnerability and hope. His performance in “Not My Father’s Son” is absolutely devastating and so heart-felt it is difficult not to be reduced to tears.

J Harrison Ghee as drag queen Lola
J Harrison Ghee gives a remarkable performance as drag queen Lola. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

Of course, with such a sublime performance, the pressure is on the rest of the cast to deliver. And while there were some nice moments from other cast members, none are able to come close to Ghee’s performance.

Some of the singing by others in the cast lacks the necessary diction, but the acting is first rate. Curt Hansen’s voice is a bit nasal, but he does a credible job as the young factory owner Charlie who bets everything on Lola and a bunch of drag queens.  And Ellen Marlow has a great deal of fun playing the factory worker who crushes on Charlie.

Speaking of drag queens, the plume of queens that inhabit Kinky Boots are obviously having the time of their life. The stage simply sparkles each time they make an appearance.

Director and choreographer Jerry Mitchell keeps everything running at a break neck speed, and some of the dance is as dazzling as Lola and her girls.

Kinky Boots’ universal message of love and acceptance couldn’t come at a better time. You could feel it in the air opening night.  Is it any wonder the Vancouver run has already virtually sold out.

Kinky Boots with book by Harvey Fierstein and music and lyrics by Cyndi Lauper. Directed by Jerry Mitchell. A Broadway Across Canada presentation on stage at Vancouver’s Queen Elizabeth Theatre until February 12. Visit http://vancouver.broadway.com for tickets and information.