Review: Kinky Boots the Musical

Kinky Boots the Musical

As funny as it is toe-tapping.

Rating:

2005 film Kinky Boots proved to be a feelgood wonder, somehow not quite capturing the public’s imagination in the same way The Full Monty did it’s nonetheless proving to have legs (long, lithe drag queen legs) by hitting a cord with theatre audiences on Broadway in musical form and now it’s here in London to spread some much needed joy.

Broadway legend Harvey Fierstein sticks close to the movie, hitting the same comedic beats as Julian Jarrold’s film he lifts some of the best dialogue from there: “Please God tell me I haven’t inspired something burgundy…” and adds a little extra pathos into the mix with a more focus on the paternal side of the story.

Famously inspired by true-events that saw a shoe factory in Northampton change tact to avoid closure by manufacturing “erotic boots for men and women” , the fictional side of story behind Kinky Boots follows Charlie Price (Killian Donnelly) heir to Price & Sons, the factory fun by his father that makes hand crafted gentleman’s shoes. With no real interest in carrying on in his father’s footsteps, Charlie and his ambitious fiancé Nicola (Amy Ross) make a dash to London to start their new lives only for Charlie’s father to die suddenly leaving him to save the factory and its workforce from collapse. At the urging of feisty worker Lauren (Amy Lennox) and after a chance encounter with flamboyant drag queen Lola (Matt Henry), Charlie hits upon the idea to dump the Brogues and Oxfords for quality kinky boots for men and show them in Milan.

Like all good tales, Kinky Boots is about the little guy triumphing against the odds but in this case the little guy is just as much the flamboyant, seemingly confident drag queen as the unsure factory proprietor thrown in at the deep end. It’s the friendship between the two men, on the surface poles apart but bonding over their daddy issues and desire to succeed at something, that fuels the show and Henry and Donnelly are a fabulous double-act, Henry back on the London stage after his stint on The Voice and Donnelly fresh from his impressive turn in the energetic Memphis. Henry arguably has the showier role, Lola is a glamorous bundle of glitter and heels, all bluster and pithy one-liners but Donnelly more than holds his own with an easy charm and bags of wide-eyed childlike enthusiasm once he hits on his idea. The duo may power the show but equally Amy Lennox’s hilarious Lauren is the shows secret weapon, holding the audiences loyalty and devotion with her blunt observations and adorable goofiness. Her solo song, The History of Wrong Guys is one of writer Cyndi Lauper’s catchiest and is matched by some amusingly 80’s hair metal video choreography from director Jerry Mitchell. The rest of the supporting cast are no slouches either, each of them getting their moment to shine but the biggest cheers are reserved for the troupe of statuesque drag queens, the Angels, who back-up Lola with their astonishing display of splits and back-flips in skyscraper heels and teeny-tiny sparkly costumes.

The simple factory set is like a playground in Mitchell’s hands from his ingenuity at turning a ribbon aided by a strapping drag queen into a boxing ring to a number of conveyor belts into a jaw droppingly brilliant homage to OK Go’s memorable treadmill video, Here It Goes Again, he transforms what could be a simple feelgood tale into a breathlessly vital piece of musical theatre. Lauper’s catchy tunes are wonderfully hummable, with bith funny and touchingly poignant lyrics that may be considered by some as manipulative in their pleas for acceptance but are ultimately hugely uplifting.

With nary a duff note to be had, Kinky Boots is one of those rare musicals that is as funny as it is toe-tapping and is set to become a bawdy, gaudy hit on the London stage. Leave your cynicism at the door, strap on your least comfortable pair of thigh high boots and fall in love with this musical gem.

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