entertainment

Review: Kinky Boots at the Adelphi Theatre

2015-09-16
Kinky Boots finally hit London last night at the Adelphi theatre with legendary gay writer performer Harvey Fierstein, pop icon Cyndi Lauper and director Jerry Mitchell, last seen in the west end with Legally Blonde, taking to the stage to suck up the love from a rapturous opening night audience. The show opened in Broadway in 2012, was a smash hit winning a clutch of Tony Awards, and has proven a huge hit with audiences wherever it’s opened. It’s not hard to see why. It’s a feel good romp of a musical with a fantastic pop score and an upbeat message of acceptance of yourself as much as other people. Kinky-boots-london-company-01 Kinky Boots is the story of two men who cannot live up to what their fathers wanted of them. Charlie, who is uninspired by his father’s wish for him to carry on the family shoe business and Simon, whose dad wanted him to be a boxer, but who is, instead, a drag queen. Loosely based on a true story on which a 2005 film was made starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, the two men meet after Charlie steps in to stop a gay bashing and Simon, or Lola as he prefers to go by, helps Simon realise that they could turn round the ailing business if they started making women’s boots for men. Fierstein’s script is funny, touching and sharp, as ever, and you can’t help but be swept up with the fabulousness of it all. I had a smile on my face from beginning to end. From Matt Henry as Lola who is clearly loving every moment and has the audience in the palm of his hand, to the Angels who really are fantastic in all their thigh-booted glory. It’s great to see X Factor finalist and Attitude cover star Marcus Collins, who is Matt Henry’s understudy, get an opportunity to show off his fantastic voice. Kinky-boots-london-company-10 If you want to overthink it then there are a few minor niggles. For me, as with the original film, there’s something a little confusing about Lola. Is a man who turns up to work in a factory in women’s clothes a drag queen or a transvestite? Simon says at one point he has trouble being himself out of drag. I would liked to have seen more of this and find out more about the Angels who seem a little like the gay avengers, assembling to teach the straight world how to be fabulous. But hey, this is a West End musical, and the show's central theme, a message of understanding and acceptance is one the world, and, in particular mainstream audiences, can never hear enough. It’s a rare and welcome musical that offers real show-stopping moments and there are several in Kinky Boots. Sex is in the Heel sees Lola and the Angels explaining what’s needed to make a boot kinky and Killian Donnelly belts out with Soul of A Man. There’s also a laugh out loud comic number The History of Wrong Guys in which Amy Lennox really shines. It’s a night of triumph for Jerry Mitchell, the director and choreographer who gives you exactly what you want, milking every joyous moment of old school glamour and showbiz and, too, for Cyndi Lauper, who gives us, for once, a joyously refreshing pop score from someone who actually writes great pop music. It and Mitchell’s direction work so well that I can’t remember the last time I saw a musical so successfully bridge the gap between the energy of theatre and pop concert so successfully. The climax of Act One, Everybody Say Yeah with the company dancing along the production line conveyor belts is one of those great musical theatre moments that define the genre. Kinky-boots-london-company-13 All in all, with everything that is going on in the world, a shot of high kicking hand clapping turbo boosted fun that Kinky Boots delivers is just what the drag queen ordered and something we could all do with. Give me the keys, I might move in. One last note: The show impressively begins with a plea to not use your phones during the performance. Despite this I noticed someone sending texts, sound switched off, brightness turned down low. Forgetting to turn a phone off is one thing and, though this is a first world problem, theatre etiquette is now beyond a joke. Isn’t it about time that talking or texting gets an on the spot fine? It may sound draconian but enforce it a few times and this will stop. FOUR STARS Kinky Boots is now playing at the Adelphi Theatre. For the best deals on tickets to this show and more, visit tickets.attitude.co.uk. Related: Cyndi Lauper - "Think I'm gonna be quiet? No way!"