KINKY BOOTS – West End

In Audio, Features, London theatre, Musicals, Opera, Opinion, Reviews by Edward SeckersonLeave a Comment

Running at the Adelphi Theatre

If the shoe fits, they say, wear it. But in truth there’s always been a bit of a size differential between Kinky Boots, the modest urban Brit-flick, and the Cyndi Lauper/ Harvey Fierstein musical that it spawned. Lauper’s score resides principally in the funk and spunk of cross-dressing catwalk glamour while the somewhat dowdy spirit of Northamptonshire – the vernacular of the piece – is barely hinted at in the “Price and Son Theme” of the opening number.

But at least the show has at last, in one sense, “come home” and is no longer lost in the translation of trans-Atlantic attempts at English regional dialects – though it has to be said that every time the winning Killian Donnelly’s earnest and likeable Charlie slips from plain speaking into song he instantly acquires an American twang. One size does not fit all.

I have to say that I thought the show took a little while to get into its full stride but once the realisation dawned that – as the gender-bending Lola puts it – “Sex is in the Heel” it struts its stuff with terrific aplomb. Jerry Mitchell’s production is sure-footed and pacy and hits key buttons like Lola’s entrance with the requisite splash of showbiz: one moment she’s a mugging victim next a club sensation with illuminated shop windows of leggy silhouettes backlit in crimson.

Matt Henry’s Lola presents that exotic mix of soulful masculine vocal tones with an extravagant and queenly manner. He absolutely nails the moment when he arrives for work at the shoe factory neatly restored to his male self in dapper immaculately fitting suit. In this moment he’s a little out of place and out of sorts as the show’s musical soundtrack sometimes is. And yet Cindi Lauper is far from predictable in one or two of her best point numbers. “The History of Wrong Guys” gives the terrifically talented Amy Lennox as Lauren a peach of a showstopper as girl-with-a-crush collides with girl-with-a-past in all its voice and face-pulling embarrassment. Funny girl indeed.

And then there’s the key number on which the show turns, very fine by any standards – “Not My Father’s Son” – where Charlie and Lola bond in their “coming out” as individuals. They both, of course, eventually get their eleven o’clock numbers but both are more predictably poppy power ballads. Of course, Killian Donnelly’s great asset here lies in the “normality” (even nerdishness) of his looks – and then he opens his throat and this powerhouse of a voice is set free. His number “The Soul of Man” isn’t special but the intensity with which he delivers it is. It becomes a universal self-assertion song.

The trend for commercial musicals is currently unequivocally in the feel-good category (perhaps for obvious reasons) and their source material – as in Made in Dagenham and Bend It Like Beckham (whose Howard Goodall score is in a different league of sophistication from the others) – is invariably about social justice and the dreams that can lift us up to where we belong. Pride – the musical – will doubtless be next. You won’t leave Kinky Boots feeling short-changed if you love sheer unadulterated showbiz as much as I do. The energy and commitment of this company – not least those leggy “Angels” – is infectious. Failure to kick up one’s heels is not an option.

Edward Seckerson on RssEdward Seckerson on Twitter
Edward Seckerson
A prolific broadcaster, writer and journalist as well as a self-confessed ‘musical theatre obsessive’, Edward has interviewed everyone from Bernstein to Liza Minnelli, Paul McCartney to Pavarotti, Julie Andrews to Andrew Lloyd Webber. He wrote and presented the long-running BBC Radio 3 series Stage & Screen. He also regularly produces podcast interviews with notable theatrical artists and makes regular appearances on the BBC Radio 2 Arts Show, BBC Radio 3 and Radio 4, where he presented the 2007 series of the music quiz Counterpoint. He has published books on Gustav Mahler and the conductor Michael Tilson Thomas, is a regular critic for Gramophone Magazine and Opern Welt and a founder member of The Arts Desk. He also blogs independently at www.edwardseckerson.biz and tweets at @seckerson.
Read more...

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Edward Seckerson on RssEdward Seckerson on Twitter
Edward Seckerson
A prolific broadcaster, writer and journalist as well as a self-confessed ‘musical theatre obsessive’, Edward has interviewed everyone from Bernstein to Liza Minnelli, Paul McCartney to Pavarotti, Julie Andrews to Andrew Lloyd Webber. He wrote and presented the long-running BBC Radio 3 series Stage & Screen. He also regularly produces podcast interviews with notable theatrical artists and makes regular appearances on the BBC Radio 2 Arts Show, BBC Radio 3 and Radio 4, where he presented the 2007 series of the music quiz Counterpoint. He has published books on Gustav Mahler and the conductor Michael Tilson Thomas, is a regular critic for Gramophone Magazine and Opern Welt and a founder member of The Arts Desk. He also blogs independently at www.edwardseckerson.biz and tweets at @seckerson.

Leave a Comment