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Theatre Review: Kinky Boots, Adelphi Theatre


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Based on a true story, the 2005 film Kinky Boots follows Charlie Price as he resurrects his late father’s failing shoe factory with the help of Lola, a larger-than-life drag queen in need of a sturdy pair of stilettos able to support the weight of a real man. 

Photo by Matt Crocket

Following a successful Broadway run, where it won the 2013 Tony Award for Best Musical, the West End production brings Kinky Boots closer to its origins – it’s set in the decidedly un-glamorous town of Northampton.

Matt Henry is flamboyant, fabulous, and above all very charismatic as Lola. His multifaceted performance drives the show, while Killian Donnelly’s Charlie Price offsets Lola’s confidence with a very British awkwardness. The real star of the show is Amy Lennox as Lauren, who stands out in the chorus numbers and delivers a brilliant performance of ‘The History of Wrong Guys’ so funny it was in danger of stopping the show.

An excellent supporting cast brought the show to life with an infectious energy that had the audience cheering and whooping as if it were a panto at times. Lola’s backing dancers, the Angels, were especially fun to watch, with amazing dance talent, strong vocals, and total commitment to the moment.

The numbers are certainly very memorable – composer and lyricist Cyndi Lauper (of ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’ fame) has eschewed more traditional musical theatre styles in favour of catchy pop and soul-inspired repeated choruses. We’re not at risk of missing lyrics or misunderstanding meanings, as lots of the most important lines are repeated, but the reliance on repetition leads to a lack of progression and a decreased focus on storytelling, which can nonetheless leave the viewer confused. 

My main criticism concerns some odd plot development in the second act. The audience were asked to feel sorry for Charlie Price at a point when he was being thoroughly dislikeable and unpleasant towards characters we were far more inclined to like; and the development of the main romance was decidedly lacking – unfortunate considering how charming Lauren was. This is also a show that really goes for the throat emotionally, desperately using every single cliché in the book to get you to identify with the themes and characters – but the cliché is laid completely bare to the extent that there’s no way to believe in the characters. That said, we were definitely still swept up in the fun.

On the whole, despite boasting a talented cast, some catchy melodies and a good measure of spectacle – usually key ingredients of a great musical – Kinky Boots is a mixed bag. I’m not sorry I saw it – it’s good fun, and you’ll have fun regardless of whether you actually think the show is good – but it’s not the sort of show that leaves you desperate to return.

Kinky Boots is playing at the Adelphi Theatre, London, now.

Photo by Matt Crocket.

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