Theatre review: Kinky Boots

For a night of dazzling, feelgood entertainment, head to the Adelphi theatre and treat yourself to new musical, Kinky Boots

I love musicals. For me, there’s nothing I enjoy more than escaping for a couple of hours into another world of song and dance with fabulous costumes, impressive choreography and an emotional story to tug at the heartstrings. And Kinky Boots offered all that and more.

The show, which originated on Broadway, is based on the 2005 film of the same name, which itself was based on a documentary of a failing Northampton shoe factory that turned its fortunes around by making boots for drag queens. Charlie, played by Killian Donnelly who was recently impressive in his role in Memphis, is torn between his father’s expectations for him to take over the business and his girlfriend’s wish to start a new life in London. It is clear that he doesn’t know what he wants, and it’s only a chance meeting with drag queen Lola, played by The Voice finalist Matt Henry, that he has his eureka moment, and realises he could save his family’s shoe factory by catering for the niche market of footwear for drag artists.

Kinky Boots - Boots photo Matthew Murphy

As in the tradition of all good musicals, the underlying serious theme is there from the start; here, it is obvious: overcoming prejudice and accepting people for who they are. It could be preachy and unconvincing, but the book by Harvey Fierstein together with the fantastic score by Cyndi Lauper, has you smiling constantly, and ensures you are rooting for all the characters to find success and happiness. There is a lot of humour, too; no-one takes themselves too seriously. When Lola is explaining to Charlie the difference between transvestites and drag queens, he says (with a camp flourish): “When a drag queen puts on a wig, she’s Cleopatra. When a transvestite wears women’s clothes, he looks like Winston Churchill in his mum’s knickers!”

The second half is a more sombre and focuses on the themes of lingering prejudice, as the two male leads argue, but then reunite and find common ground as they emerge from the shadows of their fathers to be their true selves.

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

What makes the show such a visual treat is the choreography and outfits; especially those worn by the Angels, a sextet of drag artists who are Lola’s backing group. They do various acrobatics, including a very impressive splits and the factory number where they parade on the conveyor belt as a prelude to their climactic catwalk display at the end, is one of the best in the show.

Cyndi Lauper’s score includes songs influenced by 60s soul, 70s disco, 80s pop with timeless power ballads and rock themes, too. Henry and Donnelly both have rich, powerful voices that are a pleasure to listen to, and the supporting cast also gets a look-in, especially the character of Lauren, played by Amy Lennox, who almost steals the show in her rousing, hilarious ‘The History of Wrong Guys’.

Amy Lennox (Lauren) and Killian Donnelly (Charlie) in Kinky Boots - photo Matt Crocket

The “six steps to success” from the whole-company song ‘Raise up/Just be’ are as useful as those you’d find in any self-help manual: “pursue the truth, learn something new, accept yourself and you will accept others too, let love shine, let pride be your guide and you can change the world when you change your mind.”

This article first appeared on psychologies.co.uk

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