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Kinky Boots The Musical at Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch

The actor-musicianship on stage is the usual way in which Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch, at least in recent years, likes to deliver musicals – though they’re not as prominent this time around. It has its advantages, and not just economical ones: ‘Take What You Got’ is devoid of the fake guitar playing that frankly plagued the previous West End production of Kinky Boots. Tim Parker, who plays Mr Price for all of a few minutes (if you think Fantine dies early in Les Misérables, Price doesn’t even get a second musical number), proves to be an enthusiastic and skilful drummer. The only strings are in the form of various guitars, and one does admittedly miss the violins and trumpets that can be heard on the musical’s cast recordings (yes, plural – there’s a West End one, and a Broadway one, the latter being notorious for having some laughable British ‘accents’).

Kinky Boots The Musical at Queen's Theatre HornchurchSpeaking of accents, Matt Corner’s Charlie Price sings in a Northampton accent, a notable and refreshing change from the show’s West End incarnation, where Charlie (whoever played him) spoke in a British voice but sang in an American one. Well, this version is proof that switching back and forth is wholly unnecessary. The show is set in 1999, and it shows, in the sense that characters use mobile telephones to talk to other people, rather than using apps and social media. In Charlie’s summation of the shoe factory that has been his family’s business for four generations, a change in strategy to produce “a range of boots for women who are men” is remarkably topical for 2022, when identity politics is a regular talking point, at least in certain quarters.

Tweaks to the dialogue include the insertion of ‘they/them’ pronouns in place of the punchline “those who have yet to make up their minds”. The set (Amanda Stoodley) is largely devoid of machinery, which makes the shoe factory look like a labour-intensive operation, while the much-reduced cast gives the workplace a family feel. In a way, the redundancy notices hit harder – a close-knit team is about to be disbanded. Or are they?

A strong reliance on the dialogue works well, as does Charlie facing the audience for his all staff addresses and briefings – it’s the best of both worlds, making us feel included without an iota of audience participation. The script is more of a conversational dialogue in this production, as opposed to hammy delivery of lines. The comedy effect is, in the end, similar, at least at the performance I attended, with the audience regularly in cahoots. Aruhan Galieva’s Lauren rattles through her spoken lines a bit too speedily, even if she knocks ‘The History of Wrong Guys’ into the park. Keanu Adolphus Johnson’s Lola is hugely likeable with a warm and inviting stage presence, displaying as much sass as vulnerability. In the end, though, Matt Corner’s Charlie steals the show, with sensational performances in his solo numbers.

This pared-down production seems in keeping with the belt-tightening going on in the big bad world, whilst providing some hearty escapism into a world where “two and a half feet of irresistible, tubular sex” are all that is needed to bring people together. Far from “divinely dull, drab and dumpy”, it’s a dynamic and delightful night out.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Based on the joyously gritty British film inspired by true events, and featuring original songs from pop icon Cyndi Lauper, this hilariously high-heeled winner of every best musical award is the ultimate feel-good experience

Original Broadway production directed and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell

Based on the Miramax motion picture Kinky Boots

Written by Geoff Deane and Tim Firth

Presented by arrangement with Music Theatre International

28 Sep – 22 Oct 2022
https://www.queens-theatre.co.uk/

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1 thought on “Kinky Boots The Musical at Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch”

  1. the acting and singing choreography was truly amazing outstanding and Lola’s voice tremendous, truly a wonderful show all the cast were very very good wonderful evening

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