Sunday, 3 January 2016

Kinky Boots



Adelphi, London
2nd January 2016, matinee

On 9th June 2013 musical history was made as Cyndi Lauper became the first solo woman to win a Tony Award for Best Score. And it was thoroughly deserved. Her joyously catchy pop score for the musical adaptation of the 2005 film Kinky Boots - based upon a true story about a Northampton shoe factory which boosted business by creating custom heels for men – is perfectly matched to the subject matter; sparkling disco numbers and euphoric power ballads beautifully unite the seemingly opposing worlds of Lola and her troupe of drag queens, the Angels, and the small town midlanders of Price & Son. Now Jerry Mitchell’s Broadway hit has transferred to the Adelphi theatre in the West End, the musical returning to its British roots while retaining the American gloss which ensured its transatlantic success.

The musical opens by introducing us to two outwardly different, but ultimately similar, boys; young Simon gleefully struts across the stage in his red stilettos until he is lambasted by his father for daring to be different, meanwhile young Charlie is given a guided tour of his father’s pride and joy, the Price & Son factory, celebrating ‘the most beautiful thing in the world’ – shoes! Years later the now adult Charlie (Killian Donnelly) is unwittingly saddled with the struggling business upon the death of his beloved dad and is yet to be accepted by the disgruntled factory workers. Yet a chance meeting with London cabaret performer, Lola (Matt Henry), presents a ‘kinky’ solution to his problems. The odd dramatic contrivance aside – Charlie’s out-of-character homophobia in act 2 is a bolt from the blue, although this is also true of the film – Harvey Fierstein’s book is laden with gags and British sauciness and Mitchell’s choreography is inventive, particularly the entertaining use of the factory conveyor belts in ‘Everybody Say Yeah’, impressive considering half the cast dance and sing effortlessly in six inch heels!

But it is Lauper’s score which truly brings the show to life. Songs such as ‘Sex Is In The Heel’, ‘The History Of Wrong Guys’, and the blazing Whitney-esque ‘Hold Me In Your Heart’ are modern classics of the pop-musical genre. Standing out in the best possible way, Matt Henry is a tour de force as Lola. Owning the stage, Henry’s feistiness and self-aware humour mask a sensitive vulnerability which is revealed in the heartfelt ‘Not My Father’s Son’. Amy Lennox’s uninhibited turn as the hopelessly infatuated Lauren is an absolute hoot, eliciting laughs with just a tilt of her head. Thus, perhaps inevitably, Donnelly’s Charlie is somewhat overshadowed, playing the straight-laced foil to the more showy performances from Henry, Lennox and the Angels, but he eventually gets his opportunity to shine and show off his fine vocals with the fist-pumping ‘Soul Of A Man’. Supported by an exemplary ensemble, the big musical numbers soar with a sense of fun and pure joy – this is a party we are all invited to.

Kinky Boots is a high-energy, glittering gem of a musical with a worthy sentiment to boot: to dispel prejudices, embrace our differences, and ‘just be who you want to be’. Some fine performances, feel-good laughs and memorable songs make for an ecstatic theatrical experience and I fully expect both the cast and creative team to be acknowledged come awards season.

Kinky Boots is currently booking until 28th May 2016 at the Adelphi Theatre



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