Archive for September 17th, 2015

Review – Kinky Boots – Adelphi Theater

September 17, 2015

The biggest opening of the fall theater season in London this year has got to be Kinky Boots, which has a huge ad campaign (buses, Underground and billboards) raising the profile all over the capitol. This is, of course, following on its huge Broadway success. Odd, isn’t it, that a quirky little feel good Brit movie was turned into a US musical? I was frankly mystified by the whole thing. First, I’d never seen the movie, so what in the world was a musical about shoes supposed to be about? Later, I saw the movie, and my question is now: why in the world would a nearly tune free movie about a man trying to rescue a shoe factory in England ever get chosen as a subject for a big musical … on Broadway? These questions were, however, mostly put to bed when I saw a brief clip of the Tonys (which I encourage you to find yourself): the scene at the end of Act 1 (to the song “Everybody Say Yeah”) in which the whole shoe factory is boogying on moving conveyor belts was so hyperactive that I felt adamant that I would see this show myself someday, come rain, shine, or a trip to the East Coast. I was even motivated to see the movie, and I’ll say: it’s good, watch it if you can, but under no circumstances be put off from seeing this play because you don’t know the source material. Kinky Boots is an excellent night out that well repays the investment in time and money – the first thing to challenge Gypsy since Imelda’s opening night. (It’s almost literally across the street, by the way. I love living here.)

So: how is it all? Well, the plot is very focused on the factory owner Charlie Price’s (Killian Donnelly) attempt to rescue his inherited, failing family shoe business and very little on his personal relationships (despite Lauren – Amy Lennox – getting a great number about falling in love with her boss); there is also a fabulous theme throughout most of the second act about learning to accept people as they are. This is why Kinky Boots is a feel-god musical, because it feeds to us liberals’ hopes that, in a world full of diversity, we can really just all get along if we try. The characters are variously challenged by drag queen Lola (Matt Henry)’s confrontational attitude, but Lola provides so much complexity and personality that she (and also he) alone drives nearly the entire second half, as she/he grows into someone who takes him/herself seriously as a designer and starts spending a lot more time as a man.

Unfortunately bullying and hatred are never too far away, and we get to see this right down to the ugly core inside Charlie; but like every good Broadway fairy tale, Lola forgives him (as I would not have) and chooses to support the rest of the factory family by getting behind the big showcase in Milan. On the way, we get piles of amazing numbers, including with drag queens doing back flips in high heeled boots, and let me promise you the energy levels are HIGH. There was also a certain frisson as Lola explained to the butchest man in the factory that she, too, likes the ladies … and the ladies like her. All a bit 50 Shades of Gray but so much yummier.

I could go on and on as I was up and clapping at the end of the show (and nearly sang out loud at the end of the first act – or, rather, I think I did, I’m sorry, it was really a catchy song), but suffice it to say I thought my £45 tickets were a great deal and am planning on going back at £65. And you probably should, too. Kinky Boots has a helluva kick. BANG BANG!

(This review is for a preview performance that took place on Tuesday, September 8th, 2015. It will probably be booking for a very, very long time.)