Kinky Boots

December 12, 2018 | By | Reply More

★★★★★     Bootiful

Edinburgh Playhouse: Mon 10 Dec 2018 – Sat 5 Jan 2019
Review by Martin Gray
Tickets and details: Book here.

Kinky Boots brings musical comedy with sole to the Playhouse for five glamorous weeks over Christmas and into the New Year.

Everybody’s wearing those kinky boots, kinky boots... actually, forget Patrick Macnee and Honor Blackman’s Sixties hit, that’s one song that isn’t in this show. All the tunes are original, courtesy of pop Queen Cyndi Lauper. They help tell the tale of a struggling Northampton shoe factory which, in a bid to stave off closure, diversifies into a decidedly niche product – fabulous footwear for ‘ladies, gentlemen and those who are yet to decide’.

Joel Harper-Jackson. Pic: Helen Maybanks

The men behind the idea are Charlie, who has inherited the plant from his father and would rather be in London with his fiancé, and Lola, drag goddess turned shoe designer. They’re surrounded by a crew of factory workers and female impersonators who must make the apparently lunatic business decision work. Standing in the way of success are Charlie and Lola’s not insignificant insecurities.

Yep, we’re in ‘what makes a man?’ territory – Charlie the bluff Northampton lad who thinks he’s sophisticated enough to take on a drag queen as a partner, and Lola, confidence itself in a frock, able to knock anyone dead with a one-liner, but barely able to say boo to a goose when he’s simple Simon from Clacton.

They seem as different as night and day, but both have lingering daddy issues. Kinky Boots steers clear of tedium in this area by giving us believable characters – the script is by Harvey Fierstein of Torch Song Trilogy fame, based on the 2005 Britflick by Geoff Deane and Tim Firth. And the material is brought to glorious life in Jerry Mitchell’s production by a cast led by Joel Harper-Jackson and Kayi Ushe.

Lola burns with charisma and power, and Ushe – sounding terribly like Tim Curry’s Frank N Furter – is recognisably the same person when Lola tries to play it straight as Simon, the wattage turned down to acceptable EU levels.

Strong ensemble

Ushe could easily steal scenes but he takes his place in the strong ensemble cast, dominating only when the story puts the spotlight on Lola’s performances. Hold Me in Your Heart, for example, is a power ballad worthy of Dream Girls, marred only by weird lighting – she’s not so much in the spotlight here as in the path of a ten-ton truck.

Callum Francis with the Angels. Pic: Helen Maybanks

Lola’s finest moment is the tango-tastic What a Woman Wants, with factory hardman/dinosaur Don (a ballsy performance by the superb Demitri Lampra), loyal worker Pat (the tuneful Mary Fox) and the rest of the all-singing, all-dancing ensemble. It’s an insightful song, wittily delivered and choreographed with real vim. We also get fight choreography, in a key scene involving Lola and Don, convincingly pulled off via lighting and slo-mo moves.

Director Mitchell is also behind the choreography and he should take a massive bow, or perhaps do a pirouette, because the moves on the complex dual-level set really are memorable, never more so than in Act One closer Everybody Say Yeah.

This sees delivery of the first of ‘Lola’s Kinky Boots’ become a party, as the conveyor belts transform into catwalks and cast members show enviable coordination, singing while flipping around the treadmill rails.

It helps that Everybody Say Yeah is one of the best songs in the show, a dizzyingly cheerful distillation of a moment of triumph, with joyful accompaniment from Patrick Hurley’s orchestra.

mood changes

The mood changes in Act Two, as Charlie begins to lose his nerve as the Milan fashion show at which they’re unveiling the make-or-break new line nears. He barks at his workers and throws horrible supposed home truths at Lola. Harper-Jackson is utterly convincing as a man projecting his fears and insecurities on others, and his gorgeous rendering of Soul of a Man is heartfelt.

The cast of Kinky Boots. Pic: Helen Maybanks

The bump in the road is part of pretty much part of every musical, but Harper-Jackson mines the emotion and makes what could be just a plot twist meaningful; and of course, it makes the final triumph all the sweeter.

And the finale, Raise You Up/Just Be at the Milan show, really is a belter, a delicious combination of pop and pantomime. It makes for a memorable  ending to a truly fine musical, one with moments of real drama alongside the expected comedy.

Yes, Kinky Boots has drag queens camping it up all over the stage, but in ActOne’s Not My Father’s Son it also has a love song between two men who aren’t in love, performed with real feeling by Harper-Jackson and Ushe.

Paula Lane. Pic: Helen Maybanks

While this is Lola and Charlie’s story, there is one good female role, Lauren, the factory girl who helps the men achieve their dream – and one of her own that she didn’t even know she had. Paula Lane, best known as Coronation Street’s Kylie Platt, makes Lauren all-round adorable, with her solo The History of Wrong Guys a masterclass in being quirky without being annoying.

The moral of the story, just be who you want to be, isn’t the most original, but it bears repeating – and Kinky Boots gives it a very glamorous kick up the backside.

Running time: Two hours and 30 minutes (including one interval)
Edinburgh Playhouse 18 – 22 Greenside Place, EH1 3AA. Phone booking: 0844 871 3014
Monday 10 December 2018 – Saturday 5 January 2019
Evenings: Mon – Sat & Sun 30: 7.30pm, except Fri 14, 21 & 4: 5pm & 8pm.
Matinees: Sats, 24, 27, 30, 2: 2.30pm.

Tickets and details: Book here.

   
Kinky Boots on tour 2019:
10 Dec 2018 – 05 Jan 2019 Edinburgh 
Playhouse
0844 871 3014 Book Online
14 – 26 Jan 2019 Canterbury 
The Marlowe Theatre
01227 787787 Book Online
28 Jan – 9 Feb 2019 Stoke-on-Trent 
Regent Theatre
0844 871 7649 Book Online
11 – 16 Feb 2019 Llandudno 
Venue Cymru
01492 872000 Book online
18 – 23 Feb 2019 Oxford 
New Theatre
0844 871 3020 Book online
25 Feb – 9 March 2019 Bristol 
Hippodrome
0844 871 3012 Book online
11 – 23 March 2019 Birmingham 
Hippodrome
0844 338 5000 Book online
25 March – 6 April 2019 Liverpool 
Empire
08448 713 017 Book online
8 – 20 April 2019 Leeds 
Grand Theatre
0844 848 2700 Book online
23 April – 4 May 2019 Aberdeen 
His Majesty’s Theatre
01224 641122 Book online
6 – 18 May 2019 Glasgow 
King’s Theatre
0844 871 7648 Book online
27 May – 8 June 2019 Nottingham 
Theatre Royal
0115 989 5555 Book online
10 – 22 June 2019 Sheffield 
Lyceum Theatre
0114 249 6000 Book online
24 June – 6 July 2019 Sunderland 
Sunderland Empire
0844 871 3022 Book online
8 – 20 July 2019 Plymouth 
Theatre Royal
01752 230440 Book online
22 July – 3 Aug 2019 Cardiff 
Wales Millennium Centre
029 2063 6464 Book online
19 – 31 Aug 2019 Dublin
Bord Gais Energy Theatre
0818 719 377 Book online
3 – 14 Sept 2019 Southampton
The Mayflower Theatre
02380 711811 Book online
17 – 28 Sept 2019 Norwich
Theatre Royal
01603 63 00 00 Book online
1 – 12 Oct 2019 Blackpool
Opera House
0844 856 1111 Book online
15 – 26 Oct 2019 Bradford
Alhambra
01274 432 000 Book online
28 Oct – 9 Nov 2019 Milton Keynes
Milton Keynes Theatre
08448 717652 Book online
12 – 23 Nov 2019 Hull
New Theatre
01482 300 300 Book online

ENDS

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