Music and lyrics: Cyndi Lauper
Based on the book by Harvey Fierstein
Director and choreographer: Jerry Mitchell
Reviewer: Barbara Michaels(4.5 / 5)
Plaudits for this musical, based on the book by Harvey Fierstein and the 2000 British film, are thick on the ground – and deservedly so. Brash, bright and beautiful throughout, Kinky Boots tells the story of one Charlie Price. An unwanted inheritance from his father leaves Charlie running a shoe manufacturing company in Northampton and forming a partnership with cabaret performer and drag queen Lola. When the business is threatened with closure and bankruptcy Lola saves the day by suggesting the manufacture of high-heeled boots for drag performers. Et voilà!
Some great songs, including those with a message and others which are pure joie de vivre, pack a punch. Kinky Boots is so much more than just another musical. At the heart of it – and what a big heart it is – is a subject which nowadays is, for the most part, treated empathetically, which was not always the case in some communities not that long ago. I refer to transgender – often in the news of late. The story tackles it head on, with the occasional heartbreak yet with fun and verve, dished out by an amazing cast who earned a standing ovation last night in the Donald Gordon theatre in the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff.
As Charlie, Joel Harper-Jackson proves, after a slow start, that he can both act and sing, coming into his own in the second half with a rendering of Soul of A Man which tugs at the heart strings. But it has to be said, it is Kayi Ushe’s Lola that steals the show. Ushe gives a scintillating performance as the drag queen and, equally telling, when he appears in male clothing. Lola’s singing of Hold Me in Your Heart as the show nears its close is heart-rending.
Demitri Lampa cuts the mustard as Don, managing to steer clear of the pitfalls of such a role i.e. portraying a so-called masculine prototype with beer belly and a set of out-moded ideas. Adam Price as the factory manager George makes this cameo role his own, although the joke wears a bit thin towards the end of the show. Coronation Street’s Paula Lane as the factory girl sweet on Charlie and Helen Ternent as his erstwhile fiancée Nicola provide an extra fillip.
As for the Angels – the dancers at Lola’s club – wow! Brilliant and believable they sing and dance throughout showing amazing talent and especially outstanding in What A Woman Wants, sung with Lola, Don and factory girl Pat in Act II. Everybody Says Yeah, sung by Charlie, Lola and the Angels with full ensemble, which brings the first half to a close is another gem. You couldn’t wish for better. All aided and abetted by great music, wonderful costumes and David Rockwell’s atmospheric set. Sit back and enjoy the magic that is Kinky Boots.