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A CurtainUp London London Review
Kinky Boots

"You are never more than ten steps away from a cross dresser!" — Lola
Kinky Boots
Cast in Kinky Boots (Photo: Johan Persson)
The production of Kinky Boots has been eagerly awaited in London since news reached us of the success on Broadway of the musical based on the film about the failing Northampton shoe firm rescued by finding a new market for quality fashion boots. Based on a true story, this musical has immense heart as the two leads, an unlikely couple, find out how much they each have in common. 2005 saw the film Kinky Boots starring Chiwetel Ejiofor as Lola but the musical version is a runaway hit.

Killian Donnelly's star quality was recognized in The Commitments and Memphis and he takes the part of Charlie Price, son of old Mr Price (Alan Vicary), whose family have owned the shoe making firm in the Midlands for generations. The death of his father means he has to leave his plans for a London flat, job and girl Nicola (Amy Ross) to stay in the Midlands and run the factory. A chance meeting with drag artist Lola (Matt Henry) inspires the business plan to manufacture high heels robust enough for tall guys to dance in.

This musical is a class act — tell me which other musical lyric contains the word hubris? Cyndi Lauper's music is refreshing and soft rock with upbeat numbers for the Angels, the drag girls to strut their dazzling stuff. London is of course benefitting from Broadway's designer; the shoes alone could go straight into a museum fashion display and that's before Price and Co start making high heeled boots to display at the Milan Fashion Show.

The Angels are mesmerizing, most of them are incredibly tall so their stage presence is guaranteed with elaborate makeup and fabulous clothes, they are elegant show stealers. For once we are not getting a watered down version of the Broadway musical but the real McCoy. Director and choreographer Jerry Mitchell has taken a British cast and drilled them into a spectacular show with magical dance numbers.

The bromance between Lola and Charlie allows them both to express their insecurities and Lola faces up to his father's hopes that he would become a boxer when he fights comic naysayer Don (Jamie Baugham) and generously allows him to win. Charlie loses the wrong girlfriend Nicola (Amy Ross), who with a property developer is planning to turn the shoe factory into designer apartments, and finds shoe worker with business nous Lauren (Amy Lennox) and the flats are thankfully swopped for high heels.

Architect and designer David Rockwell's sets have the authentic looking shoe factory with its iron work shop floor, conveyor belts and the office above. Gregg Barnes' costumes are beautiful and, as I have already mentioned, the shoes would be an inspiration to Jimmy Choo and Christian Louboutin and are works of art.

The pub where Harry (Paul Ayres) and Charlie sing "Take What You Got" has a pretty melody sung really well as a duet. There is something very endearing about Killian Donnelly and he is ideally cast as the self effacing Charlie. Matt Henry as Lola conveys the drag star's brittleness under all that larger than life personality. They contrast well and in "Not My Father's Son" empathise. Both men have voices to die for and the numbers that close both acts have the audience on their feet.

If I were a Broadway producer I'd be queuing up to get Cyndi Lauper to write another musical for me. For Simon Saltzman's review of Kinky Boots on Broadway in 2013 and the complete song list go here.

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Kinky Boots
Book by Hervey Fierstein
Music and Lyrics by Cyndi Lauper
Directed and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell

Starring : Killian Donnelly, Amy Lennox, Jamie Baughan, Matt Henry, Amy Ross, Michael Hobbs, Paul Ayres
With: Nana Agyeman-Bediako, Gemma Atkins, Jeremy Batt, Arun Blair-Mangat Marcus Collins, Beau Cripps, Emma Crossley, Ben Dawson, Jordan Fox, Callum Francis, James Gava, Edward Green, Robert Grose, Gillian Hardie, Chloe Hart, Sophie Isaacs, Luke Jackson, Robery Jones, Adam Lake, Catherine Millsom, Sean Needham, Tim Prottey-Jones, Verity Quade, Tumo Reetsang, Javier SantosDominic Tribuzio, Alan Vicary, Michael Vinsen, Bleu Woodward
Musical Director: Peter White
Scenic Design: David Rockwell
Costume Design: Gregg Barnes
Musical Supervisor, Arrangements and Orchestrations: Stephen Oremus
Lighting Design: Kenneth Posner
Sound Design: John Shivers
Running time: Two hours 30 minutes with an interval
Box Office: 020 3725 7060
Booking to 6th February 2016
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 16th September 2015 performance at the Adelphi, The Strand, London WC2E 7NA (Rail/Tube: Charing Cross/Embankment)

Musical Numbers
  • The Grand Parade
  • Table with A View/At The Kinky Boots
  • Maybe My Baby
  • Fire and Ice
  • Twenty -Two Years/Villa On A Hill
  • Girl In The Mirror
  • Everybody's Doing It
  • The Crooked Path
  • Who Couldn't Dance With You
  • Music Is On
  • Love Can't Happen
  • What You Need
  • Bonjour Amour
  • The Grand Charleston
  • We'll Take A Glass Together
  • I Waltz Alone
  • Roses At The Station
  • How Can I Tell Her
  • Grand Ending
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