Review: Kinky Boots − an emotional tale of acceptance and determination

PUBLISHED: 14:51 27 February 2019 | UPDATED: 17:43 27 February 2019

The fabulous cast of Kinky Boots.

The fabulous cast of Kinky Boots.

Archant

It is very rare that a theatre show touches your soul (or should that be sole?!) but that's exactly what Kinky Boots, which opened at the Bristol Hippodrome on Monday, did for me when I saw it last night (Tuesday).

The fabulous cast of Kinky Boots.The fabulous cast of Kinky Boots.

It is very rare that a theatre show touches your soul (or should that be sole?!) but that’s exactly what Kinky Boots, which opened at the Bristol Hippodrome on Monday, did for me when I saw it last night (Tuesday).

Based on the 2005 British film of the same name, the theme is an emotional journey of trying to find your place in the word, acceptance and gritty determination.

Inspired by true events, the story takes you from a struggling gentlemen’s shoe factory in Northampton to the glamorous catwalks of Milan, with a foray into the flamboyant world of drag artists in between.

The story centres around Charlie Price, who is struggling to live up to his father’s expectations and continue the family shoe-making business of Price & Son. With the factory’s future hanging in the balance, help arrives in the unlikely, but spectacular, form of Lola, a fabulous performer in need of some sturdy new stilettos.

Paula Lane as Lauren and Joel Harper-Jackson as Charlie singing Close.Paula Lane as Lauren and Joel Harper-Jackson as Charlie singing Close.

Directed and choreographed by two-times Tony Award-winner Jerry Mitchell (Legally Blonde, Hairspray), it has won major best musical awards including three Olivier Awards, three WhatsOnStage Awards, as well as six Broadway Tony Awards.

The story was written by Broadway legend and four-times Tony Award-winner Harvey Fierstein (La Cage aux Folles), with songs by Grammy and Tony-winning 1980s pop icon Cyndi Lauper, the show’s blurb dubs it a ‘joyous musical celebration about the friendships we discover, and the belief that you can change the world when you change your mind’.

It was certainly obvious to me why the musical has been such a huge success, the pedigree behind it was what drew me to it, especially as I was a big fan of Lauper’s music and style back in the day.

The score was as brilliant as I expected, but what made the show so amazing for me was the charm and poignancy of the writing, with the characters so warm and likeable you were willing them all to succeed with their individual aspirations and dreams.

The factory employers get to work making the glamorous boots.The factory employers get to work making the glamorous boots.

This was underpinned by the phenomenal standard of acting and singing talent, headed up by the mesmerising Kayi Ushe, who lit up the stage with his portrayal of Lola, a charismatic and immaculately-turned out drag artist whose need for stage footwear, with a heel strong enough to support his weight without breaking, while still oozing sex appeal, is what saves the factory owned by his new-found friend Charlie.

Lola’s background, from growing up as Simon, whose boxer father trained him to fight but then disowned him for turning up for a match in drag, to the abuse he regularly gets from people who don’t understand his lifestyle, although not particularly original, is pivotal to the rollercoaster of a story.

Ushe’s versatile speaking voice and vocals, comically ranging from deep manliness to the silky lilt of Lola’s singing, was nothing short of spellbinding.

Lola’s story mirrors Charlie’s difficult relationship with his father who could not understand why his son was not as passionate about the business as he was, and this forms the basis for their great friendship. Charlie, by no means an easy part to play being somewhat in Lola’s shadow, was done so very ably by Joel Harper-Jackson who has an excellent singing style and was superb in holding the show together in the parts when Lola is not on stage.

The shoe factory is in full swing once again.The shoe factory is in full swing once again.

Special mention must also go to Paula Lane, famous for playing the acerbic Kylie Platt in Coronation Street, who was hilarious as the down-to-earth factory production worker Lauren and the wonderful Angels, Lola’s backing singers and dancers, who were all to dazzling with their stunning outfits demonstrating every ounce of their fabulously-honed bodies .

The staging and special effects were fantastic, particularly during a boxing match scene where the choreography and effects were expertly executed in perfect sync, creating brilliant drama and tension.

I’m not ashamed to say I shed a few tears during the peak of emotional turbulence but those soon turned to those of joy and laughter as the story carefully unfolded, providing Kinky Boots with all the ingredients for a perfect night of theatrical entertainment.

I heartily recommend you catch it before the end of the run on March 9.

The factory workers are stunned when the fabulous Lola rocks up, needing some new heels.The factory workers are stunned when the fabulous Lola rocks up, needing some new heels.

Performances are every evening at 7.30pm, apart from Fridays when they start at 8.30pm. Matinees are Fridays at 5pm and Saturdays at 2.30pm.

Tickets, priced from £19.50 are available via atgtickets.com/bristol

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