Part-time traveller, Full-Time Brummie

Theatre Review: Kinky Boots

For the second time in March we head to the theatre. Not on press night and not as a “freebie,” but to see a show paid for with our very own hard earned cash. Or in this case, a gift card from Ma and Pa Lee for Christmas.

For those who haven’t heard of Kinky Boots, this very British musical recently closed in the West End to embark on its first UK tour and although it’s now finished it’s run at the Birmingham Hippodrome you can catch the show at various theatres around the country.

“I used to be a zero but now I clearly feel that, I may be the hero who reinvents the heel”

It tells the story of Charlie Price, who inherits the family shoe-making factory in Northampton following his father’s death. He has to choose between taking on a sinking business or continuing his life in London with aspirational fiancée Nicola. Charlie’s chance encounter with drag queen Lola leads to a conversation about the shoddy footwear she is forced to wear. Faced with firing his colleagues and friends, Charlie’s childhood friend Lauren suggests that he finds a new niche in footwear. He takes on Lola as designer, and the idea of kinky boots for drag queens is born.

Kinky Boots UK Tour

Photo credit: Helen Maybanks

Of course, the enterprise is not without its ups and downs. Both Charlie and Lola deal with expectations placed on them by their parents, with accepting who they really are, and with forming new and unexpected friendships.

It’s fun, it’s energetic and there are some great ensemble pieces. However, for me there surprisingly wasn’t any stand-out songs – for a score written by Cyndi Lauper I expected something a little more memorable. I found some of the slower songs to be a little underwhelming. Yes, even Lola’s second act big power ballad “Hold Me In Your Heart”. Although most of the audience seemed to disagree.

“The world seems brighter 6 inches off the ground”

There is absolutely no doubting Kayi Ushe’s star quality as Lola. As the feisty drag queen he oozes sexuality and confidence. Yet Ushe is equally believable as the vulnerable Simon, the real person behind the wigs, glitter and makeup. You simply can’t take your eyes off him when he’s strutting across stage. And I have to give huge applause to the Angels, who I embarrassingly didn’t realise were drag queens until halfway through the first act.

Kinky Boots UK Tour

Photo credit: Helen Maybanks

The role of Lauren is played mostly for laughs, and Paula Lane has great comic timing. Her “wind machine” routine as she reaches the crescendo of “The History of Wrong Guys” has a woman behind us hooting with laughter so much we think she may be having a fit of some kind. And we all know a Don (Demitri Lampa), hostile and intolerant until forced by Lola to confront his own demons.

I felt that the role of Charlie was the weakest, although this is no reflection on Joel Harper-Jackson. Although the final scene where Charlie is forced to unsteadily model his own merchandise is hilarious. Both acts end strongly, the first with an amazing conveyor belt style routine really testing the timing and balance of the cast, and the second act with the kinky-boot clad final number. The slow-motion boxing ring scene is also wonderfully staged with beautiful lighting.

“Ladies, gentlemen, and those who have yet to make up their minds”

I did enjoy Kinky Boots but felt that it didn’t live up to my rather high expectations, garnered from the praise lavished on it from various sources. And as much as this Northampton-based musical tries to reflect real-life and celebrate the overcoming of prejudice, sadly we currently live in a society of bigotry and hatred that no amount of glitter, high-heeled boots or positive affirmations can fix. If only it could.

Kinky Boots UK Tour

Photo Credit: Helen Maybanks

Kinky Boots is currently on tour until November 2019. Photo credit: Helen Maybanks.

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3 responses to “Theatre Review: Kinky Boots”

  1. Suzanne says:

    You have got to admire anyone who can walk in high heeled boots. Looks like a fab musical. Em, good to see you are blooming as a Brummie Blogger 🙂

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I’m Emmalene, a 40 something with a passion for travel, theatre, food, drink and the occasional accidental hike! I’m a born-and-bred Birmingham native so expect lots of Brum content on here too…

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