Theatre review: Kinky Boots

Date Posted: 16/09/2015

Matt Henry (Lola) and Angels in Kinky Boots - photo Matt Crocket

Pictured: Matt Henry (Lola) and Angels in Kinky Boots - photo credit Matt Crocket

Sarah Holt explains why Kinky Boots could be the best musical to hit the West End this year…

I have to admit that I wasn’t particularly looking forward to reviewing Kinky Boots. Despite being a northerner myself, I’ve never been a huge fan of real-life-story inspired comedies set around the north – like The Full Monty and Brassed Off. And I entered the theatre expecting much of the same – the Kinky Boots plot tells the story of a Northampton-based shoe factory that had to diversify its product range from men’s shoes to boots for drag queens in order to survive.

But, as the new musical’s tagline goes; ‘You can change the world when you change your mind’.

In fact, it took less than the opening two songs for me to completely about-turn on my pre-conceived views of the show, which is playing at the Adelphi Theatre until February.

I realised I’d made a huge mistake as soon as the intro started playing on Land of Lola, the song in the show that formally introduces Lola, a drag queen searching for a pair of knee-high boots that will support her weight (among other things).

It’s the first time in the production that it becomes really clear that the music has been written by Cindy Lauper, and as it played out, you could see almost everyone in the audience squirming with the will to get out of their seats and dance.

Kinky Boots ensemble

Pictured: The cast of Kinky Boots - photo credit Matt Crocket.

This number also introduces Lola’s Angels – an ensemble of six drag queens. This sextet are show stoppers. Now I’ve seen shows with drag queens in before. But, as beautiful as the lady boys are in the likes of Lady Boys of Bangkok, they’ve never really wowed me with their dancing or singing.

The Angels are a completely different story. This group give the cast of Fame a run for their money in terms of energy, slickness and pitch. And on top of everything, they’re dancing in six inch heels.

Which brings me on to another jaw-dropper in the show – the costumes. A man named Gregg Barnes has conjured up the wardrobe for this show, and conjured is just the right word to use. Some of the outfits look like something Vivienne Westwood would make if she went to Wonderland. My favourite was a corset and tutu combo styled to look like a Beefeater outfit.

Next to Lola and the Angels, the character of Lauren, played by Amy Lennox, gave me wide eyes. Amy’s rendition of The History of Wrong Guys was one of the best performances I’ve seen in the West End this year. Through a performance that borders on almost physical theatre, she gets across every ounce of her character’s angst in this number. 

It’s also clear that a lot of thought has gone into the stage design for Kinky Boots. Clever tricks are used to represent the passage of time and the process of shoe production. At one stage the production line turns into a treadmills, which the cast dance on top of.

Killian Donnelly (Charlie) and Matt Henry (Lola) in Kinky Boots - photo Johan Persson

Pictured: Killian Donnelly (Charlie) and Matt Henry (Lola) in Kinky Boots - photo credit Johan Persson

And then there’s the script. The dialogue is laced with lines that make you giggle, like ‘ there’s a difference between a drag queen and a transvestite; a transvestite puts on a frock and looks like Churchill in his mother’s knickers.’

Overall, Kinky Boots is a feel good musical, performed by an incredibly talented cast. I suppose at this point I should mention that Killian Donnelly is in the production. But, despite being a West End favourite, he’s overshadowed by the rest of the performers.

If you like the sort of show that’ll have you dancing out of the theatre at the end, this is a must-see for you.  

Kinky Boots is booking at the Adelphi Theatre, London, until 6th February. For more information visit www.kinkybootsthemusical.co.uk.

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