Kinky Boots

Posted on: 23 September 2015 by Laurence Green

Laurence reviews Tony Award winning musical Kinky Boots at the Adelphi Theatre.

Kinky Boots, Photo by Matt Crockett

Imagine a cross between The Pajama Game and La Cage aux Folles and you will have some idea of the irresistible appeal of Jerry Mitchell's Tony Award winning musical Kinky Boots (Adelphi Theatre) adapted from the 2005 film of the same name.

The plot of based on a true story and revolves around an old-school shoe factory called 'Price and Son' in Northampton who have manufactured sturdy men's shoes for generations. As the times have progressed and the industry has evolved, the factory has not and is close to going out of business. The owner's son Charlie has no intention of following in his father's footsteps and leaves with his fiancé Nicola to start a new life in London. A short time later, however, his father passes away and he is summoned back to Northampton to take charge at the factory. To save 'Price and Son' and avoid the burden of the workforce he has known his entire life losing their jobs, Charlie has to find a way to adapt the business and find a niche market for the company, whose future is hanging in the balance.

The break comes from a chance meeting with six-foot drag queen Lola, who claims there is a  future in crafting flashy, fashionable, thigh-high boots for the sort of cabaret artists who think there is no business like shoe business.

The message of Harvey Fierstein's book about the importance of defying prejudice and finding acceptance and self discovery is perfectly integrated into the show and the script itself is often very funny - we don't laugh at the characters but with them and the production eschewing any traces of sentimentality, is driven by a strong sense of realism.

The show also marks the first foray by veteran pop star Cyndi ('Girl Just Want to Have Fun') Lauper into writing song for musical theatre. Lauper's ballad 'Not My Father's Son' beautifully summaries the main themes while the finale numbers 'Everybody Say Yeah' (Act 1) and 'Raise You Up' (Act 2) are unapologetically feel good. Other standout, numbers include the hilarious funk ode to the stiletto 'Sex is in the Heel', 'The History of Wrong Guys' and Charlie's soaring ballad 'The Soul of Man'. Indeed the toe-tapping songs show an impressive range of styles and are smoothly interwoven into the story.

Killian Donnelly makes Charlie a lovable hero, while Amy Ross as his blandly aspirational girlfriend Nicola and Amy Lennox as his passionate, quirky employee and eventual love interest also deserve special mention.

But the undoubted star of the show is Matt Henry, a finalist on The Voice two years ago, as the flamboyant cross-dressing diva Lola. Henry masters the emotional depths of Lola's own insecurities and fraught relationship, with his father to great effect. Further credit should also be given to his supporting troupe of Angels (six cross-dressing backing singers and dancers) whose energy and jaw-dropping appearances lift the audience every time they grace the stage.

This in short is a musical with a very big heart which may be about drag queens but provides hugely enjoyable entertainment for the whole family.

Kinky Boots
Run extended to May 2016
Box office: 020 3725 7068

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