retail news in context, analysis with attitude

When I went with my daughter to see the Tony-award winning production of “Kinky Boots” last weekend, it was with the expectation that I would see a big, splashy, entertaining musical. In this case, a musical based on a 2005 movie that I remember liking very much.

But while it was certainly big, splashy, and enormously entertaining, “Kinky Boots” ended up being a lot more than that - a fable and morality tale about the importance of tolerance. And there’s even a business lesson. (Yippee.)

Like the movie, “Kinky Boots” is about a man named Charlie Price who inherits his father’s shoe factory, which has been in his family for four generations. The problem is that the factory has been making the same sort of men’s brogues for most of those decades, and they’re not selling. Charlie decides it is time to close the business down.

The business lesson comes first, when a young woman who works at the factory tells Charlie that the answer is simple - if the factory is failing because it is making shoes that nobody wants, then the solution is to make shoes that people actually do want.

“All the sods who survived went out looking for an under-served niche market and aimed to fill the void,” she says. “They didn’t sit up in their offices whining, ‘What else can I do?’”

The lesson in tolerance comes when Charlie realizes what under-served market he can cater to - he can make boots for drag queens who dance in shows put on in London. That’s when he meets and engages with Lola, who came into the world as Simon, and who hides insecurities behind a mask of bravado and theatricality. But that doesn’t mean that everything does smoothly, or that acceptance comes easily.

The good news is that in addition to playing on Broadway, “Kinky Boots” also is on tour … and if the cast is as good as the one on the Great White Way, you’re in for a treat and even a bit of illumination.

There is one line that I can’t shake, that seems so relevant today: “You change the world when you change your mind.”

In a world where many people, as the great Pete Hamill once said, substitute ideology for thought, that seems like a pretty good rule to live by.



I caught up with Lady Bird the other evening, and could easily see why it has been much lauded by critics and is up for multiple Oscars this weekend. The story focuses on a young woman played by Saoirse Ronan, a high school senior in Sacramento, California, who years to move to the east coast, where she believes the culture will be more matched to her personality. She feels trapped, though, in a family of limited financial means, with a mother (Laurie Metcalf) with whom she has a “complicated” relationship.

The thing about “Lady Bird” is that, as written and directed by Greta Gerwig, it feels so utterly real - there’s nothing stagey or phony or even theatrical about it. The performances are spot on, especially by Ronan, Metcalf, Tracy Letts (as her father), and the great Lois Smith as an irreverent teacher/nun.

Terrific movie, completely worthy of your time.



The Oscars are on Sunday night, so let me offer you my list of nominees who should win, and who I’m guessing will win. (I’ve seen almost all the major nominees.)

Best Picture:
Get Out (should win)
The Shape Of Water (will win)

Best Actress:
Margot Robbie, I, Tonya (should win)
Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (will win)

Best Actor:
Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out (should win)
Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour (will win)

Best Supporting Actor:
Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project (should win)
Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project (will win)

Best Supporting Actress:
Mary J. Blige, Mudbound
Allison Janney, I, Tonya
Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird
(This is a category in which I have no clue who will win, but all three of these actresses were amazing and should. Coin toss.)

Best Director:
Get Out, Jordan Peele (should win) The Shape of Water, Guillermo del Toro (will win)

Best Adapted Screenplay:
Molly’s Game, Aaron Sorkin (should win)
Molly’s Game, Aaron Sorkin (will win)

Best Original Screenplay:
The Big Sick, Emily V. Gordon & Kumail Nanjiani
or
Get Out, Jordan Peele
or
Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig (should win)
The Shape of Water, Guillermo del Toro, Vanessa Taylor (will win)

Here’s the deal. Of this list, my favorite movies were, in no particular order, Get Out, Molly’s Game, The Big Sick and I, Tonya - in each case, I found them for varying reasons to be surprising, engaging and enormously entertaining. And, of this list, I thought that The Shape of Water was one of the most overrated movies I’ve seen in years.

But maybe that’s just me.



I have several beverage and food recommendations for you this week.

First, the La Rossa Doppelbock Beer from Moretti, which is rich and malty with a beautiful amber color. I loved it.

Second, the 2016 Colterenzio Pinot Noir, a wonderfully medium bodied Italian wine that I enjoyed with some nice spicy arancini. Perfect.

Let me suggest to you that there are few things tastier than the lamb barbacoa tacos served at the beer hall at the Surly Brewing Company in Minneapolis, washed down with their Simpsons Scottish Ale, which has some toffee and caramel going for it and is incredibly tasty.



Finally … Hard to believe that 20 years ago today, my Mom passed away, just a few years older than I am now. Way too early and way too young. I can still remember her telling me, when I experienced a growth spurt that allowed me to actually look down on her, "You may be taller than me. But I'll always be bigger than you." Life with her could be complicated sometimes, but never boring. I miss her.



That’s it for this week. Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you Monday.

Sláinte!!
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