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Kinky Boots walks the West End boards in spectacular style

Kinky Boots The MusicalIf you have been in London any time over the last few months, you can’t fail to have seen posters advertising this year’s second most anticipated musical theatre opening (after Gypsy). Finally, it is here and Kinky Boots has hit the West End in spectacular style.

Price and Son is an old established shoe factory in Northampton and the latest addition to the family, Charlie (Killian Donnelly) is being groomed by his father to take over the family business. Unfortunately, Charlie has other ideas and desperately wants to leave the business and move to London with his fiancée Nicola (Amy Ross). Just as they arrive at their new flat, Charlie gets a call to inform him that his father has passed away and he needs to return home to sort out the factory. On his return, Charlie not only has to put up with the resentment of his some of his workforce – many of whom were people he had grown up with – but also with the shock news from foreman George (Michael Hobbs) that the factory is basically on its uppers and barely surviving.

Desperate, Charlie returns to London to try and sell his mass of back-orders but to no avail. Following an altercation with a couple of drunks and a woman outside a pub, Charlie gets knocked unconscious and wakes up to find himself in the dressing room of a club where the woman he tried to assist turns out to be the club’s headline act, Drag Queen Lola (Matt Henry). Returning to the factory, Charlie starts to lay off his workers when one of them Lauren (Amy Lennox) suggests that instead of giving up, Charlie tries something different with the factory. As he ponders what to do, Charlie has a flash of inspiration, a factory that can make shoes, and boots, and a niche market for men that wear women’s clothing but can’t find boots strong enough to support their weight and thus, despite the misgivings of some of his staff – particularly the ultra-manly Don (Jamie Baughan) – Kinky Boots are born. Will this new business model be the saviour that Price and Son need?

When I told my friends I was going to see “Kinky Boots” I encountered two reactions. The first was jealousy and the second was asking if it was anything like the movie? The jealousy is well deserved as anyone that hasn’t seen the show is really missing something. As for the film, I’m afraid that I’ve never seen it – though have just ordered it – but if it is half as good as this truly awesome show, then it must be pretty special.

With music and lyrics by Tony, Emmy and Grammy-winner Cyndi Lauper and a book by Tony-winner Harvey Fierstein, “Kinky Boots” has a fantastic pedigree, winner of six Tony awards whilst on Broadway and the transfer to London has been highly anticipated. From the start, when the traditional warning about mobile phones and cameras has been replaced by a wonderful piece of scripted acting, I knew this was going to be fun, but I had no idea exactly how much enjoyment was about to sweep over me. Director/Choreographer Jerry Mitchell (who had fulfilled the same role on Broadway) has put together a truly amazing show that easily lives up to its hype. The story itself has a nice ring of reality about it – as it should since it was based on a true story – and the set by Scenic Designer David Rockwell (another Broadway import) is wonderfully versatile and amazing to see. The music is perfect, in fact during the interval (while we were getting our pictures taken with a pair of kinky boots) my companion and I remarked that there had not been a single bad song out the ten in the first act. This record was kept up in the second act where every song – but especially ‘Hold Me In Your Heart’ – was excellent.

Turning to the cast, Killian’s portrayal of Charlie was spot on. Portraying a man forced to work in a business he really disliked, by a father that didn’t really believe in him and with a fiance for whom control and status were everything is not easy but Killian pulled it off perfectly and, that moment where he suddenly realised what he wanted his life to be was just superb. Speaking of fantastic performances I would like to single out Jamie Baughan’s portrayal of Don. This character – immersed in Northampton ideas of what a man should be and what a woman wants – would be very easy to overplay making the audience dislike him but, as played by Jamie, Don came across as a rough uneducated fellow, whose notions of life were being challenged in a way that he just couldn’t cope with and I actually felt some sympathy for him.

Turning to Lola’s Angels (Jeremy Batt, Arun Blair-Mangat, Marcus Collins, Luke Jackson, Adam Lake and Javier Santos) and wow what a performance. Knowing quite a few drag queens, I have to say all six of these looked amazing – there were a lot of comments about amazing legs, not a hint of cellulite, etc coming from some of the female audience members during the interval – and performed fantastically. They were the perfect backing to the awesomeness of Lola Herself. Speaking of which, I can only say WOW what a performance. Matt Henry was absolute perfection as the larger than life drag queen who hid her vulnerability and fear behind a mask of makeup and a personality bigger than Michelin Man after he’s had too many pies. From the moment she took to the stage looking absolutely, Lola dominated everything and everyone around her but without distracting from the other characters. Performing as a drag queen takes a talent that many could not muster, but Matt really has it and if ever he was looking for work outside of mainstream theatre, there are a whole load of venues in Soho that would be fighting each other to get Lola on their stage. A truly amazing performance from an incredibly talented actor.

Summing up then, it’s fairly obvious that I enjoyed “Kinky Boots” but it is probably not possible to realise just how superb this fantastically produced and acted show was. It lived up to and totally eclipsed the hype around it and, as I said to a friend on my way home last night, beg, borrow steal, offer sexual favours if you have to, but get along to see “Kinky Boots” as soon as possible.
5 Star Rating

 

Review by Terry Eastham

Kinky Boots is Broadway’s huge hearted, high heeled hit and it’s coming to London! With songs by Grammy and Tony award winning pop icon Cyndi Lauper, this joyous musical celebration is about the friendship we discover, and the belief that you can change the world when you change your mind.

With direction and choreography by two time Tony award winner Jerry Mitchell (Legally Blonde, Hairspray) and a book by Broadway legend and four time Tony award winner Harvey Fierstein (La Cage Aux Folles), Kinky Boots is the winner of 6 Broadway Tony Awards including Best Musical, Best Score and Best Choreography.

Take a step in the right direction and discover that sometimes the best way to fit in is to stand out…

Inspired by true events, Kinky Boots takes you from a gentlemen’s shoe factory in Northampton to the glamourous catwalks of Milan. Charlie Price is struggling to live up to his father’s expectations and continue the family business of Price & Sons. With the factory’s future hanging in the balance, help arrives in the unlikely but spectacular form of Lola, a fabulous performer in need of some sturdy new stilettos.

Cast announced for Kinky Boots

Killian Donnelly will not be performing on the following dates: 14-16 December 2015
Matt Henry will not be performing on the following dates: 23-28 November 2015

Kinky Boots
Adelphi Theatre
Evenings: Monday to Saturday 7.30pm
Matinees: Wednesday and Saturday 2.30pm

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