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Kinky Boots (Susan Elkin reviews)

Kinky Boots – ★★★★
Music and lyrics by Cyndi Lauper, book by Harvey Fierstein. Based on the film by Geoff Deane and Tim Firth. Produced by Cameron Mackintosh and Playful Productions
performance date: 14 Jan 2019
venue: Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury
reviewer/s: Susan Elkin (Sardines review)

Photo: Helen Maybanks

★★★★

Kinky Boots, full of truth, challenging issues and triumphant feel-good factor, is just the show for these politically troubled times and a damp, chilly January night. You simply can’t help but smile at its cheery ebullience.

The 2005 film (Geoff Deane and Tim Firth) was entertaining and thoughtful, the West End version was a roof-rouser and this touring production more than ticks the boxes. A reminder in case you’ve been on Mars for the last fourteen years or so: Price and Son, a family-run shoe factory in Northampton is unexpectedly inherited by Charlie Price who discovers that it’s in deep financial trouble. A chance meeting with a transvestite dancer leads to the idea that making sexy long boots, strong enough to take a man’s weight, for the Milan Fashion Week could save the day for Charlie and his workforce.

Kayi Ushe is splendid as larger than life Lola, strutting about issuing put-downs being outrageously funny and – then the real depth – revealing of his innate vulnerability. I have a very wise, experienced clergyperson friend who says that the toilet scene is the best bit. She means that it’s about acceptance, trust and love, I think. This is the point when flamboyant Lola – aka as Simon from Clacton and now conventionally dressed – tells Charlie (Joel Harper-Jackson) about his troubled childhood. In the musical version it is, of course, a sung dialogue and Ushe does it with powerful poignance. And when Harper-Jackon joins in, with minimal accompaniment at this point. it becomes really special. It works brilliantly within the rhythm of the whole piece too because it contrasts so colourfully with the big brash singing and dancing numbers.

Harper-Jackson sings well as Charlie and is a very convincing anxious factory owner with other conflicts in his life to compound his problems. Paula Lane is good value as Lauren, his right hand woman in the factory and Demitri Lampra has entertaining fun as the lumbering, homophobic Don especially in the boxing scene with Ushe from whom he is about as different in every way as he could possibly be. Inspired casting.

Really, though, this is an ensemble piece. The factory staff becomes an accomplished, slick chorus from which each actor emerges to play small roles. Then there’s Lola’s backing group of drag queens from her London nightclub act. Their work is energetic, deliciously over-the-top and nicely choreographed (Jerry Mitchell who also directs).

Warmly recommended for an escapist evening if you need cheering up.

Photo: Helen Maybanks

 
 First published by Sardines: http://www.sardinesmagazine.co.uk/reviews/review.php?REVIEW-Marlowe%20Theatre%20(professional)-Kinky%20Boots%20-%20%E2%98%85%E2%98%85%E2%98%85%E2%98%85&reviewsID=3454
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Susan Elkin
Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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