When a men’s shoe factory in Northampton is unable to compete with cheap imports from abroad and faces closure, the young factory owner and a London drag queen team up to design and produce a knee-high, high-heeled boot sturdy enough for a man.
Ultimately the retooling saves dozens of factory workers’ jobs, despite some resistance from an outspoken foreman and others who were initially turned off by the flamboyant client.
That's the tale of "Kinky Boots," a six-time Tony Award-winning musical based on events in late 20th-century central England.
Returning to the Saenger Theatre this weekend, three years after its New Orleans debut, “Kinky Boots” will play five performances Friday through Sunday.
There will be three evening performances and two matinees as the Saenger wraps up its 2018-19 Broadway in New Orleans season.
The 15-number, Tony Award-winning score composed by rock star Cyndi Lauper and the book by Harvey Fierstein power this production, which ran on Broadway from March 2013 through April 7 of this year. Another Tony winner, Jerry Mitchell, designed the musical’s choreography.
In the New Orleans production, Connor Allston performs the lead role of factory owner Charlie Price. Kenneth Mosley is cast as Lola, the drag queen who inspires Price to produce the “Divine Footwear” line.
Interviewed by phone from a one-night stopover in Midland, Michigan, 100 miles from his childhood home near Detroit, Allston raved about the tour and his rapport with other cast members.
“I have such talented cast members working with me on this show,” Allston said. “I might be leading the show, but the production is only as good as everyone who’s in it. ... Every night, we feed off of what the audience gives us, and that makes it a lot of fun.”
Allston, 24, is about the same age as his character in the production, which, he said, makes it easier for him to relate to factory owner Charlie and the dilemma that confronts him — especially when it comes to striking a balance between loyalty to his employees and being open to new ideas.
“Charlie is trying to find his way through all of this,” Allston said. “He’s known these people all his life and he’s trying to save their jobs. So he brings in this new idea that’s just kind of putting all his eggs in one basket, because this is the way he thinks he can save the factory.”
Regarding the hostility of his workers toward Lola, Allston said, “Charlie, himself, is OK with who the people are at the beginning of the show, but he doesn’t really understand until the end that he has to go through this journey with them to accept themselves as who they are in order (for them) to accept others as being who they are.”
In an April 30 interview with The Boston Globe, Mosley made a similar point. “ ‘Kinky Boots’ is about acceptance, which is different from tolerance," he said. "Acceptance is about open arms. It drives the message home that every individual deserves respect and that there is beauty in the differences that we all bring to the table.”
WHERE: Saenger Theatre, 1111 Canal St., New Orleans
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 7 p.m. Sunday and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday