Review – Kinky Boots, Adelphi Theatre

Monday 14 September 2015

hqdefaultIt’s not just us that’s reminded of Kellogg’s Special K cereal every time we see the Kinky Boots logo is it?

This is the show that caused the big upset at the 2013 Tony Awards, beating Matilda for Best Musical and winning 5 others including Best Score for Cyndi Lauper. So no expectations then.

The Adelphi Theatre seems to be the home of British film-to-stage musical adaptations concerning problems in manufacturing industries. It may be damning with faint praise to say it’s streets ahead of Made in Dagenham but it is.

Jerry Mitchell‘s (direction and choreography) production is based on the enjoyable 2005 film written by Geoff Deane and Tim Firth. Charlie Price (Killian Donnelly), takes over the Northampton family shoe factory when his father dies, meets a flamboyant drag queen, Lola (The Voice finalist Matt Henry), and decides to try and keep the business afloat by eschewing (should that be es-shoeing?) the production of well-made brogues by churning out well-made specialist fetish foot wear. Not a business plan that would go far on Dragons’ Den one might think, but apparently it is based on a true story.

Things started promisingly enough with one of the best “turn off your phones” messages ever. Hurrah! But after that, and possibly due to heightened expectations, Phil was left – sitting in a crowd who constantly roared their approval – mildly disappointed. He finally experienced what it was like to be the only sober one at a party. It wasn’t until midway through Act 1 that Phil’s party finally began. Harvey Fierstein‘s slightly knock-you-over-the-head book about overcoming prejudice and being true to yourself wasn’t as sharply funny as he’d expected and although Lauper’s songs just wanna have fun and are varied and tuneful, none, on first hearing, proved particularly memorable.

But then came a series of showstoppers: the funky “Sex is in the Heel” and “The History of Wrong Guys”, the latter splendidly performed by Amy Lennox,’s Lauren – one of the factory workers and potential love interest for the already partnered Charlie. This provided Phil with his first big laugh out moment; a hilarious sight gag involving an air pump. The extraordinary first Act closing number “Everybody Say Yeah” is ingeniously performed with factory workers and drag queens (in vertiginous heels) dancing on a series of assembly-line belts. If only The Young Vic’s The Trial had put its own converyor to such imaginative use.

Phil was sufficiently warmed up to enjoy Act 2, even if the best numbers had already passed. There’s an unnecessary and mawkish scene towards the end where Lola finds her inner David Van Day and belts out “Hold Me in Your Heart” in a nursing home. Eek!

In the less showy role Donnelly’s superb voice stole the show for Phil just as he did in his Olivier-nominated, extremely different, role in The Commitments.

Sex maybe in the heel but it appears the budget is in there too. The footwear bill must be enormous. Gregg Barnes’ showgirl costumes are crowd-pleasingly over the top. Fierstein steals from his own La Cage Aux Folles (and Billy Elliot) for the discover-your-inner-fetishist finale.

photo-8The audience ovated. Heck, even an uncharacteristically enthusiastic Andrew ovated.

Now back to show’s advertising campaign again. Scattered around town there’s a series of posters featuring men in different London locations wearing thigh-high glittering red boots. Take another look at the one on the Millennium Bridge. It’s not just us that thinks it’s Diana’s ex-lover James Hewitt is it?

But it’s also a shameless excuse to hear the 1964 Patrick MacNee/Honor Blackman song “Kinky Boots”. Sadly not in the show.

 

Rating
rating-score-3-5-glass-half-full1

 

5 Responses to “Review – Kinky Boots, Adelphi Theatre”

  1. Glen Morranjie Says:

    I saw this via a £15 day-seat, (rising to £25 post preview.) It has plenty of heart if not much spectacle, (the opposite of “Priscilla, queen of the desert,”) so unlike some of the overseas productions those in the London top price seats must wonder where their money went.

    The production for the 11 o clock number was the most colourful.

    Audience seemed to be a strange mix of America tourists and camp gay men, with plenty of both having already seen the show during its London preview run. Clearly a cult hit and I enjoyed it too.

  2. Glen Morranjie Says:

    Agree it is far better than the dull “Made in Dagenham” musical …

  3. Sal Says:

    The intriguing reference to David Van Day recalls this tab headline from not long ago:

    I’m A Celebrity: ‘David Van Day is so vain he even invents stalkers …
    http://www.mirror.co.uk › 3am › Celebrity News
    Nov 23, 2008 – Self-obsessed whinger David Van Day is so vain he pretends to have stalkers to make himself look famous and popular.
    ……….

    The Whingers claimed to be stalked by Sinead Cusack, did they not?
    https://westendwhingers.wordpress.com/2007/11/18/our-last-words-on-broadway-promise/

  4. Gerry. Says:

    Completely agree with your review. It’s a perfectly nice night out with the two best numbers in the first act. Second act finale was blah. Audience I saw it with ovated with a few still in our seats. Interesting to see how long it runs.


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