Kinky Boots the Musical Review GIFTED

Ladies, gentlemen, and those of you who are yet to make up your minds... welcome to my review of Kinky Boots The Musical, a feel good, heartwarming show based on an incredible true story of self belief and acceptance. The show is currently playing at Winter Gardens Blackpool until 12 October 2019, tickets available here

Tickets provided in exchange for honest review.
Photo credits: Helen Maybanks.

An actor of colour wears a sparkling red dress and heels, surrounded by drag queens in red and black skimpy costumes

The Story
When his father passes away, Charlie Price reluctantly returns home to Northampton to take on his failing factory. Orders are being cancelled, business is looking bleak, and jobs are on the line, until a chance encounter with glamorous drag queen Lola leads Charlie to make kinky boots to withhold the weight of her and her angels. With the Milan trade show his chance to prove himself, can Charlie come through for the factory and his friends?

The Soundtrack
Despite being written by 80s queen Cyndi Lauper, the majority of songs were no Defying Gravity, but then again, even Elphaba would have a hard time belting out lines about brogues. 

Lola's songs, on the other hand, were brilliant, with a sexy dance feel to most of them, and a real Whitney-style diva vibe to Hold Me In Your Heart. Kayi Ushe blew me away with Lola's powerful numbers and softer songs alike. Joel Harper-Jackson also hit the higher notes and key changes beautifully, and their harmony together was a highlight of the performance for me.

the factory worker cast of Kinky Boots stand on a conveyor belt, while the drag queen Angels sit on the floor downstage. Everybody is smiling and has their arms raised, they are celebrating.

The Set
The set design for Kinky Boots really caught my attention, with simple industrial pieces switching to suit every scene. I particularly loved that the factory's conveyor belt split into pieces and became a central prop for the dance routine in Everybody Say Yeah, reflecting the change and fast pace the factory was undertaking as it prepared for their new line of boots and the Milan show.

In the film factory lout Don challenges Lola to an arm wrestle but Playful Productions wisely changed this to a boxing match for the musical, which is much easier for the whole audience to see and appreciate. 

The set became a boxing ring with just two pieces of rope across the central unit, and the lighting quickly flashed to imitate photography while the actors performed the show in slow motion. It was a clever, engaging way to illustrate the scene, and both the set and lighting design coloured me impressed.

a male actor of colour stands centre stage in a blue dress, hat, and heels, with drag queens either side wearing beige trench coats and heels
an actor of colour in a brown suit and tan shirt shakes hands with a white actor wearing a dark blue shirt and grey suit trousers

The Cast
Speaking of fast pace, the angels' dance routines were certainly that. Half incredible choreography, half acrobatic display, they brought so much fun and sparkle to Kinky Boots The Musical. I can honestly say this is the first show I've seen where my jaw has literally dropped, when one angel leapt high and landed in a perfect box split!

I was astounded to learn after the show that the actors playing the Angels are not full time drag performers, because they pulled it off perfectly, with help from their amazing makeup and costumes. The budget for sequins and gems in this production must have run into the thousands!

Whether in sequins as Lola or suited as Simon, Kayi Ushe was a stand out for me. The script was very similar to the film, in which Chiwetel Ejiofor portrays Lola, so it would be easy to compare the two, but Ushe developed the character for the stage beautifully, exaggerating her words and actions so she really was a larger than life queen strutting before our eyes.

Every character had an element of comedy, which is partly what made the musical so fun to watch, it felt like the audience were invited into the factory banter. The only performance that jarred for me was factory worker/Charlie's love interest, Lauren, portrayed by Paula Lane. 

Having seen Lane in Coronation Street I don't doubt her talent, but the character and her songs just seemed very awkward and pantomime-esque. Maybe it was the direction, or perhaps the fact I've never been to Northampton, where the musical is set, but I struggled to understand why her accent was different to the rest of the cast, too. 

the cast of kinky boots assemble in a set designed to look like a factory, raising glasses of champagne

The Summary
Kinky Boots is one of my favourite films, and I really hoped that seeing it sexed up on stage with tonnes of songs and sequins would live up to it. I'm happy to report that it did, and every piece of the performance tied together to create the perfect feel good show about acceptance and courage.

I had my own lesson in acceptance too, when I looked around and saw all kinds of people in the audience. I had wrongly assumed that middle aged men wouldn't be the target audience, but my dad came along and loved every minute just like the rest of the crowd, who packed out the seats and filled the room with roaring applause. 

Have you seen Kinky Boots The Musical?


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