Home / Musical / Kinky Boots – Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury

Kinky Boots – Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury

Book: Harvey Fierstein

Music & Lyrics: Cyndi Lauper

Director & Choreographer: Jerry Mitchell

Reviewer: Victoria Bawtree

After a steady stream of Jukebox musicals, Kinky Boots – albeit based on the 2005 film – feels like a breath of fresh air. Lauper’s score is original and plays with different styles, from folk to rock and from ballad to gospel, each matching the emotions of the moment with attention to detail. There’s a nice balance of full-on and intimate and while you can hear a bit of Lauper’s iconic pop style at times, it never overshadows. 

For those who don’t know the film, essentially it follows the story of Charlie Price (Joel Harper-Jackson) who inherits his father’s failing shoe business, based in Northampton. He is neither ready nor willing to step up to the mark but reluctantly goes about trying to find a solution to the problem, in honour of his father. One night he unwittingly finds himself in a local Drag Queen club where he meets Lola (Kayi Ushe) and the Angels and on his return to the office he starts the process of laying off his long-standing and loyal staff. It takes factory worker Lauren (Paula Lane) to set Charlie on the road to finding his new, niche market. With three weeks to prepare for the Milan Fashion Festival; an unsupportive and selfish girlfriend and prejudice (both obvious and uncovered), what could possibly go wrong?

The two Acts follow the film closely and David Rockwell’s scenic design impressively manipulates the space to cope with different locations: the juxtaposition of factory office and club where the idea of manufacturing Kinky boots is born works well, as does the clever use of factory conveyor belts as treadmills in the toe-tapping and energetic finale to Act 1 Everybody Say Yeah.

Kayi Ushe as Lola is really terrific: he easily takes centre stage when in drag and finds his insecurities when not. The ballad Not my father’s son, in which Charlie and Lola discover their shared backgrounds of trying to please a father while failing to be themselves, needs little staging as Ushe carries the sentiment of the scene beautifully with crystal-clear vocals and carefully judged pace. Joel Harper-Jackson is endearing, clearly balancing a naïve, child-like excitement with frustrations of battling not only the mammoth task of turning around the family business, but also his own inner prejudice. His cracking power ballad, Soul of a Man in Act 2 shows off his vocal range and while the sudden American accent seems a little incongruous, his disappointment in his situation and in himself is totally evident.

The supporting cast is also impressive. The six Angels spend much of the production dancing in high heels, sporting ever-skimpier costumes (thanks to Gregg Barnes’ innovative costume design) and never miss a beat or nuance throughout. Demitri Lampra as Don, the bigoted and narrow-minded factory worker who needs to be challenged to accept others for who they are, is totally believable and Paula Lane plays the cheeky, plain-talking Lauren with a crush on her boss, with an infectious sense of fun.

This is a celebratory and uplifting musical, with enough originality to keep it fresh and with a pleasing palette of light and shade throughout.

Runs until 26 January 2019 and on tour | Image: Helen Maybanks

Book: Harvey Fierstein Music & Lyrics: Cyndi Lauper Director & Choreographer: Jerry Mitchell Reviewer: Victoria Bawtree After a steady stream of Jukebox musicals, Kinky Boots – albeit based on the 2005 film – feels like a breath of fresh air. Lauper’s score is original and plays with different styles, from folk to rock and from ballad to gospel, each matching the emotions of the moment with attention to detail. There’s a nice balance of full-on and intimate and while you can hear a bit of Lauper’s iconic pop style at times, it never overshadows.  For those who don’t know the…

Review Overview

Reviews Hub Score

Celebratory and Uplifting

About The Reviews Hub - Features

The Reviews Hub - Features
Our Features team is under the editorship of Nicole Craft. The team is responsible for sourcing interviews, articles, competitions from across the country. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.