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Kinky Boots

Queen's Theatre Hornchurch

Book

Harvey Fierstein

Music and lyrics

Cyndi Lapuer

Director

Tim Jackson

Musical Supervision and Orchestration

Charlie Ingles

Synopsis

Charlie Price has reluctantly inherited a struggling shoe business from his ‎dad, which he’s desperate to save. He teams up with the larger than life drag queen Lola to produce a line of fabulous shoes to save the factory.


Review

First published on Everything Theatre

Kinky Boots tells the story of an unlikely friendship between Charlie Price (Matt Corner) and Lola (Keanu Adolphus Johnson), and how they encourage each other to design a range of shoes for drag queens in order to save a shoe factory. This production marks the first UK revival of the musical in a few years.

While both Corner and Johnson deliver a reasonable portrayal of their characters and manage quite a nice harmony towards the end of “Not my father’s son”, there is some inconsistency in their ability to hit the high and low notes. The band and the actors are also slightly out of synch in the opening number, meaning the show failed to get off on the right foot. This issue, although remedied somewhat later on, remained a persistent problem. In addition, the tempo of a few numbers, such as ‘Sex Is In The Heel’ and ‘Soul Of A Man’, felt slower and less energetic that they ought to have been.

There are some questionable creative choices in this production. While the songs feel slower, the delivery of the spoken dialogues seems accelerated. Lola usually has ample opportunities to make use of dramatic pauses to intensify the tension and awkwardness among characters. However, many of these were either shorter or completely skipped over. Further, some of the iconic and impactful scenes were also removed, such as Lola being offended that Charlie had to ask whether he is a drag queen or a transvestite, and Lola’s father giving her signs of implied acceptance following her performance at the nursing home. The Lola character should be over the top sassy, commanding the attention of the room at all times. However, perhaps because of the issues raised, Johnson’s Lola fell short of that and lacked a certain charisma that is unique to this queen of drags.

In ‘Everybody Say Yeah’, the last number before the interval, the focus ought to be on Charlie and Lola’s achievements in producing the first boots. Instead, the attention shifts to one of Lola’s Angels with the choreography temporarily paused for them to put the boots on, significantly dampening the energy on stage.

Lola’s Angels have always been one of the highlights of Kinky Boots. From their glamourous costumes to their inhuman acrobatic abilities performed in heels. What is there not to like. While costumes designed by Amanda Stoodley for Lola’s Angels (Jay Anderson, George Lynham, Cavan Malone and Hiromi Toyooka) remain daring in this production, the same could not be said about their and Lola’s shoes. For a show on shoes and this persistent desire to admire the “most beautiful thing in the world”, Lola and her angels wore dull, black leather heels for the majority of their performance. Even the final designs in ‘Raise You Up” are all thigh high boots in different colours, underwhelming for a catwalk in Milan. In addition, it’s unclear why Lola doesn’t wear heels in Act Two until ‘Raise you up’, whilst she wears the same outfit to the factory as she does when performing at her father’s nursing home.

Despite using materials from a critically acclaimed show, this production suffers from significant creative and direction problems. To paraphrase Lola, if red is the colour of sex, fear and danger, and signs that say do not enter, then this production only managed to achieve a shade of that ambition and is positively burgundy, leaving some gaping holes in these stiletto boots.

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