DramaMusicalNorth WestReview

Kinky Boots – Story House, Chester

Reviewer: Gill Lewis

Book: Harvey Fierstein

Music and Lyrics: Cyndi Lauper

Director: Amber Sinclair-Case

The most beautiful thing in the world – shoes – brings about some soul-searching in this uplifting, unapologetic, and thoroughly entertaining tale, told through some toe-tapping-worthy tunes.

Story House brings to life this award-winning musical, with music and lyrics by Cyndi Lauper. Unlike other musicals, it isn’t easy to think of any stand-out memorable songs. However, what makes this show is its message, which has stood the test of time with its themes of empowerment, identity, and acceptance, specifically through an LGBTQ+ lens.

Inspired by true events, Kinky Boots is based on the 2005 film namesake, written by Geoff Deane and Tim Firth. Following the sudden death of his father, ambitious Charlie (Danny Becker) is torn between a potential city life in London with fiancée Nicola (Seren Sandham-Davies), and saving the family business, Price & Son, a struggling shoe factory based in his hometown of Northampton. A chance meeting with Drag Queen Lola (Duane-Lamonte O’Garro) turns the tide and gives Charlie the inspiration he needs to save the factory, the workers’ jobs, and his father’s legacy.

O’Garro is captivating as Lola/Simon, it’s impossible to draw the eyes away from their drag persona as Lola, tantalising her audience, strong, confident and flamboyant, to what lies beneath, the sensitivity, and vulnerability of Simon. Fleeting moments when Lola meets Simon are beautiful.

Danny Becker plays Charlie with plenty of gusto, belting out some incredible vocals, reflecting the inner turmoil of his stress, as the stakes increase with the looming threat of losing his father’s business, and its staff livelihoods.

Gareth Cassidy as factory worker George, steals several scenes as we see him quietly blossoming following the arrival of Lola and her angels (fellow scene stealers, Thomas Sankey, Remi Martin, James Lowrie).

The large, extremely talented cast of actor-musicians, unfortunately, feels slightly overwhelming for the size of the space at times drowning out the action, visibly and audibly. The instruments feel intrusive and potential obstacles to the story and character development. The quieter, stiller scenes are welcomed and provide moments where the magic really shines through, especially the developing relationship between Charlie and Lola, through their shared understanding of their individual differences with a stunning rendition of Not My Father’s Son.

Rachel Ryan’s production design perfectly captures the palettes of the various locations with versatile set pieces, allowing for seamless transitions and interesting levels to host Nicole Bondzie’s choreography. Ryan’s green and blue hues allow for the reds to pop, complemented by lighting, designed by Charly Dunford, to produce plenty of eye-catching tableaux. The use of lighting in the boxing scene is effective and the silhouette of Lola at the piano is striking.

The decision to move the finale outside the auditorium is a bold move and a nice immersive experience for the audience. However, whether this momentary interruption of the flow of the story is entirely necessary is questionable as it would be as effective on the stage with those final moments of the narrative not lost through the change of perspective.

Under Amber Sinclair-Case’s direction, this Story House Originals production is well worth a visit for some feel-good pre-summer vibes.

Runs until 18th May 2024

The Reviews Hub Score

Powerful and Inspiring

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The Reviews Hub - North West

The North West team is under the editorship of John McRoberts. 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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