Kinky Boots – Review

Kinky Boots. Images Matt Crocket.
Kinky Boots. Images Matt Crocket.

Who’d have thought that a story about a down-at-heel Northampton shoe factory would ever be brought to the big screen, much less become an award-winning Broadway musical?

Kinky Boots is a laughter-filled, joyous, feel-good fairytale that epitomises the magic of movies and theatre. It ticks all the right boxes for a glittering success. A story about an underdog who makes it, a loser who finds love, and a drag queen who finds respect.

Alright, it’s a bit formulaic but Kinky Boots kicks being mundane into touch by being based on reality. The original story featured in a 1999 BBC documentary before being picked up by Tim Firth and worked up as a filmscript.

Now, like bringing coals home to Newcastle, the Harvey Fierstein/ Cyndi Lauper Broadway musical (with sensational, high-kicking, glorious choreography by Jerry Mitchell) that’s based on the 2005 film, has finally crossed the pond with its consignment of extra-large spangly stiletto footwear.

kinky boots

The show opened last week at the Adelphi Theatre in the West End (though disappointing that it didn’t have an out-of-town premiere at Northampton’s Royal & Derngate as a tribute) and it’s a five star hit.

Kinky Boots doesn’t put a step wrong. This high gloss, camp, funny, fabulous show, along the lines of Bend It Like Beckham and the underrated Made In Dagenham, is quintessentially English and proud of it.

Killian Donnelly reins in his exuberant personality to play the bland, very ordinary Charlie who has reluctantly inherited the family shoe factory which is on its uppers.

And he plays it to perfection. One night he steps in, totally against character, to save a woman being mugged, only to discover that the damsel not in distress was the muscular former boxer, now drag queen, Lola.

After a brief discussion about costumes – and shoes – (as you do after being mugged) Charlie has a light-bulb moment. Price & Sons will forego making brogues that nobody wants, to making glitzy boots for the alternative market.

And, of course, along the way, Charlie, and us, learn the very important messages contained within the plot, about the value of friendship, tolerance and understanding. And a love story? Natch.

The show is wonderfully acted, superbly directed by Jerry Mitchell, and a delight to watch from beginning to end.

Lola’s sensational ensemble of dancers, her Angels, are just heavenly (I’d die for those cheekbones and legs not to mention the abs) and the show-stopping musical numbers add pizzazz and colour.

The fast and furious Everybody Say Yeah, which ends Act One, is cleverly choreographed using the factory’s conveyor belts while Donnelly’s emotional powerhouse performance during his big solo number, Soul Of A Man, almost stops the second Act in its tracks.

Amy Lennox (Lauren) and Killian Donnelly (Charlie) in Kinky Boots - photo Matt Crocket

Amy Lennox is a knock-out in a plum of a role as the factory girl with a crush on the boss while Jamie Baughan entertains as the homophobic neanderthal who learns life’s lesson.

But this is very much Matt Henry’s show. He sparkles as the outrageous Lola and gives a heart and sole (sorry) turn, when in civvies, as Simon from Clacton.

Alas, in real life, the factory had a stay of execution, finally succumbing to closure in 2006 after cheap imports stole their niche market and “Charlie” (Steve Pateman), formerly of W.J. Brookes, is now a fireman.

Kinky Boots runs at the Adelphi Theatre until February.

Review Rating
  • Kinky Boots
5

Summary

Matt Henry wears the killer heels in the funny, fabulous, feelgood musical Kinky Boots, at London’s Adelphi Theatre.

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