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Kinky Boots – Leeds Grand

Writer: Harvey Fierstein

Composer: Cyndi Lauper

Director and Choreographer: Jerry Mitchell

Reviewer: Ruth Jepson

Ladies, gentlemen and those who have yet to make up their minds, Kinky Boots is finally touring and it’s time to strap on your stilettos and sashay to the theatre!

Based on the 2005 film, Kinky Boots the musical is pretty much a direct retelling of the same ‘based on a true story’ plot. Charlie Price (Joel Harper Jackson) returns to run the family shoe factory Price & Son in his hometown of Northampton following his father’s unexpected death, only to find that the factory has no contracts, mass overstock and is weeks from forced closure. However, following a serendipitous meeting with drag queen Lola (Kayi Ushe), and the fabulous scene that is Sex is in The Heel, the production lines start kicking out kinky ladies boots for gentleman sized feet – as Lola describes them ‘two and a half feet of tubular sex’. And of course, they must be reeeeedddddd!

The show is a visual delight. David Rockwell’s ever adapting set and fabulous costumes by Gregg Barnes sell us on Northampton’s northern grit, and Harper Jackson and Ushe are strong leads, creating a genuinely complex and layered dynamic between Charlie and Lola. Harper Jackson’s acting is spot on and takes the audience through the emotional rollercoaster that is Charlie’s life (although if he could stop singing with an American accent that would really help sell the Northampton lad he sets up so well with his acting). Ushe is a delight to listen to sing and has the audience in tears with his rendition of Not My Father’s Son. Watching him strut around the stage as Lola is spot on in terms of characterisation, and What a Woman Wants is almost sex through dance.

The only issue is when his dancing is augmented by his Angels, when a slight stiffness becomes apparent – and in a world where RuPaul’s Drag Race is a thing, no Lola should be out-danced by her backing crew! Although on that note, if Angels Connor Collins, John J Dempsey, Damon Gould, Joshua Lovell, Chilshé Mondelle and Toyan Thomas-Browne ever decide to tour as a drag act, they will have a guaranteed audience. Also strong are Lauren (Paula Lane) with her hilarious rendition of The History of Wrong Guys and perfect northern lass persona, and George (Adam Price) and Pat (Lizzie Bea) who both prove that even a small part can be a scene stealer. The ensemble as a whole are strong – Act 1 finale Everybody Say Yeah is a great example of this, and in addition the use of conveyor belts to emulate the 2006 Here It Goes Again treadmill based viral video, is a stroke of choreographic genius.

Underneath Kinky Boots’ superficial story of sexy shoes and feel good moments is a real sense of pathos and a serious message. In a world where transgender people are sadly still at risk of being disowned by their families, and where even this week we hear about how Brunei still think stoning gay people to death is acceptable, Kinky Boots is a timely reminder that we need to accept everyone for who they are. As finale Raise You Up/ Just Be reminds us – you change the world when you change your mind.

Runs until Saturday 20th April 2019 | Image: Helen Maybanks

Writer: Harvey Fierstein Composer: Cyndi Lauper Director and Choreographer: Jerry Mitchell Reviewer: Ruth Jepson Ladies, gentlemen and those who have yet to make up their minds, Kinky Boots is finally touring and it’s time to strap on your stilettos and sashay to the theatre! Based on the 2005 film, Kinky Boots the musical is pretty much a direct retelling of the same ‘based on a true story’ plot. Charlie Price (Joel Harper Jackson) returns to run the family shoe factory Price & Son in his hometown of Northampton following his father’s unexpected death, only to find that the factory has…

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Reeeeeeddddd!

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The Southwest team is under the editorship of Holly Spanner. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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