Playwright: Music and Lyrics by Cyndi Lauper, book by Harvey Fiersteain. At: Broadway In Chicago at the Cadillac Palace, 151 W. Randolph St. Tickets: 800-775-2000; www.broadwayinchicago.com; $25-$108. Runs through: July 26
During its pre-Broadway development in Chicago, audiences saw a different show every night, so busy were songwriter Cyndi Lauper and scriptwriter Harvey Fierstein putting the final touches on the winsome tale that eventually earned itself six Tony awards. The finished version now returns in triumph under the auspices of Broadway In Chicago.
The story is simple enough: Northampton's Price and Son has produced quality footwear for generations, but young Charlie Price pursued an urban career, only to later find himself heir to the factorynow fallen on hard timesfollowing the death of the Price paterfamilias. Struggling to save the source of his town's economy, Charlie discovers a hitherto-ignored market for specialty shoesdesigned for men who dress as women. With the bank threatening to foreclose on the industrial property, a real estate developer eager to convert it into apartments and his material-girl fiancee issuing him an ultimatum, can Charlie and Lola ( nee Simon ) ease cultural tensions between the country shoemakers and the drag-divasnot mention their own unresolved filial legaciesin time to save the family business?
Do shoes come in pairs? How can you not anticipate a happy ending when, from the very outset, every melody and lyric in the score exhibits the wisdom, dignity, empowerment and grandeur of an anthem to embracing diversity? ( Club DJs, marching bands and wedding planners, take note. ) From the brisk "Most Beautiful Thing In the World" that dispenses with the exposition in an efficient 20 minutes, to the exuberant hand-clapping "Raise You Up" finale, Stephen Oremus' symphonic orchestrations anchored by thumping disco bass keeps the adrenalin flowing. Two inspirational ballads"Not My Father's Son" and "Hold Me In Your Heart"provide quiet moments and, for fans of old-school warbles, there's the tango-tempo "What A Woman Wants" and the flirty "History of Wrong Guys."
Textual improvements made manifest include a more detailed set-up for the pivotal boxing scene between Lola and an anti-gay tradesman ( which gets its own song in this revision ) and for Charlie's stress-fueled rant nearly derailing the goodwill generated by the full-cast "Everybody Say Yeah" dance on industrial conveyor belts just before intermission. The multitalented Kyle Taylor Parker leads a squad of antelope-agile ( and steel-ankled ) chorines wearing stiltwalker heels that make the most of Jerry Mitchell's athletic choreography, while Steven Booth, Lindsay Nicole Chambers and bear-boy extraordinaire Joe Coots exude enough earthy charm to spur exhilarated Yankee playgoers to consider booking a vacation to the English midlands.