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Kinky Boots – Theatre Royal, Plymouth

Music and Lyrics: Cindi Lauper

Book: Harvey Fierstein

Director and choreographer: Jerry Mitchell

Reviewer: Kelyn Luther

The original film, Kinky Boots, was written by Geoff Deane and Tim Firth, the latter of which wrote Calendar Girls (the musical adaptation is running at Theatre Royal Plymouth from 22nd July 2019). Charlie Price (Joel Harper-Jackson) inherits a shoe factory from his father, but the business is old-fashioned and on the point of closing. In struts drag queen Lola (Kayi Ushe), who convinces Charlie to diversify- produce high heels for drag queens.

Harvey Fierstein seems a natural choice to write the book, having won the Tony Award for Best Book for the stage musical of La Cage Au Folles (although Kinky Boots lost to Matilda in Best Book of A Musical). The show doesn’t quite have the original film’s British quality of stiff upper-lips confronted by a sexuality that makes them look inwards, but Fierstein hasn’t Americanised it. The original setting of Northampton has been kept, and apart from one reference to ‘uptown’, there’s no glaring culture clash. Indeed Fierstein’s Broadway dazzle works perfectly for Lola and her Angels (fellow drag performers).

Cyndi Lauper deservedly became the first solo female winner for Best Original Score. The show’s songs, if not the most lyrically inspirational, are exuberant synth pop. Numbers like Land of Lola have that fun quality of Lauper’s most famous song, Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, and Sex is In The Heel has a funky groove perfectly suited to Lola and her Angels: so dazzling and convincing that despite knowing they’re in drag, you do a double-take.

Unsurprisingly, Ushe’s performance as Lola is the best of the show. Ushe shows Lola’s cuteness and vulnerability as well as her ferocious fabulousness, hinting at the character’s complexity long before Lola discusses her childhood with Charlie. The role of Charlie gives an actor less to work with but the characterisation that Harper-Jackson does give Charlie in the speaking parts, disappears in the singing. The accent is dropped and it sounds more like an accomplished boyband rather than acting the song.

As well as Lola, comic highlights include Dom (Demetri Lampra), a straight-talking Northerner who knows what he likes, and Lola is not it, and factory manager George (Adam Price). Price is the only actor that can steal a scene from Lola and frequently is the funniest on stage, a real achievement considering Ushe’s sassy wit.

Finally, the kinky boots themselves. Costume designer Gregg Barnes deserves kudos for styling dazzling shoes perfect for strutting.

Runs until 20 July 2019, then touring | Image: Contributed

Music and Lyrics: Cindi Lauper Book: Harvey Fierstein Director and choreographer: Jerry Mitchell Reviewer: Kelyn Luther The original film, Kinky Boots, was written by Geoff Deane and Tim Firth, the latter of which wrote Calendar Girls (the musical adaptation is running at Theatre Royal Plymouth from 22nd July 2019). Charlie Price (Joel Harper-Jackson) inherits a shoe factory from his father, but the business is old-fashioned and on the point of closing. In struts drag queen Lola (Kayi Ushe), who convinces Charlie to diversify- produce high heels for drag queens. Harvey Fierstein seems a natural choice to write the book, having won…

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