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Abstract

In this article, we examine Kinky Boots, a musical that won the Tony Award for Best Musical in 2013 and continues to win over audiences with its positive message about acceptance, as a rhetorical text through William K. Rawlins’ theoretical construct of relational dialectics regarding friendship. Through rhetorical criticism as a research method, we apply Rawlins’ concepts of political and personal friendships, as well as the dialectics of affection and instrumentality, expressiveness and protectiveness, judgment and acceptance, and the ideal and the real to examine notable relationships between characters in the musical. Specifically, we examine the relationships between Charlie and Nicola, Charlie and Lola, and Don and Lola. Through this analysis, we suggest that when participants in the musical’s relationships fail to negotiate dialectic tensions, their relationships can resultantly cease to exist. We also note that the balance of relational dialectics appears to be conducive to healthy relationships. We posit that Kinky Boots provides theatre-goers with life lessons regarding relational dialectics that they can apply to their own real-life relationships, and that Kinky Boots may serve as an effective teaching tool for undergraduate students learning about relational dialectics.

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