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BLOG : Review: Kinky Boots Is Entertainment Of The Highest Quality With A Terrific Cast

By Tony Peters
Monday 21 September 2015

It’s a funny old game this musical theatre lark.
 
In a red carpet interview on the opening night of Kinky Boots at the Adelphi, Cyndi Lauper revealed that the production team had been waiting for this particular theatre (“the A Del Fi”) before opening the show in London.

Review: Kinky Boots Is Entertainment Of The Highest Quality With A Terrific Cast

While we’re all glad to see the show finally transfer from Broadway, Cyndi’s comment isn’t exactly going to make the producers of Made In Dagenham skip with joy. Had things gone to plan (and I for one still don’t know why they didn’t), the story of the women’s struggle for equal pay at the Ford Motor Plant would be approaching its first anniversary now and Kinky Boots might still be waiting for a West End home.
 
One can’t help noticing the irony here because there are similarities between the productions: both set in British factories and both about acceptance and equality.
 
But while MID was a totally original work, Kinky Boots comes to the West End with something of a pedigree.
 
Despite being a British story and based on a British film, the show by Cyndi Lauper and Harvey Fierstein had its premiere in the US — in Chicago, in fact — before moving to New York where it took Broadway by storm and won six Tony Awards from 13 nominations, including Best Musical and Best Score for Lauper, who also went on to win the Grammy for best musical theatre score.
 
So it arrives in London directed and choreographed, as was the Broadway production, by Jerry Mitchell, with quite a reputation to live up to. And I’m happy to say it pulls it off triumphantly.
 
Like Made In Dagenham, it’s based on a true story and stars Killian Donnelly as Charlie Price, who reluctantly inherits a Northampton shoe factory that has fallen on hard times and is threatened with closure. But its fortunes look set to change when it starts manufacturing specialist footwear for female impersonators following a chance meeting between Charlie and drag queen Lola (played by Matt Henry).
 
It’s a great story and makes for a totally feelgood show, the type that has you leaving the theatre with a smile on your face, but that also has moments of tenderness and poignancy. Its central theme is that of toleration and acceptance. However, it’s not a show that becomes bogged down by its message, but instead manages to convey it in an entertaining way through exuberant dance numbers and a witty script.
 
Killian Donnelly, one of our brightest leading men, once again fills the theatre with his incredible voice as he did in Les Miserables, The Commitments and Memphis. But the standout performance is that of Matt Henry, who is fantastic as Lola. It’s a larger than life part and Henry plays it to the hilt. But to think he just gets away with vamping it up in big hair and falsies is to sell short what is a fantastically rounded performance that as the show progresses comes to have real depth.
 
Sparky support comes from the terrific Amy Lennox as feisty employee Lauren, who has a crush on her boss, while Jamie Baughan keeps his performance as stereotypical macho man Don the right side of believable.
 
A special mention must go as well to The Angels, Lola’s fellow drag queens, comprising Jeremy Batt, Arun Clair-Mangat, Marcus Collins, Luke Jackson, Adam Lake and Javier Santos, who strut and dance their stuff in vertigo-inducing heels and have legs to die for — that was my wife’s opinion by the way, not just mine.
 
Cyndi Lauper’s score is an eighties influenced blend of soft rock and power ballads and provides cracking solos for Killian Donnelly, Amy Lennox and Matt Henry.
 
Kinky Boots is not high art and that’s fine. Cynics might even say that its predictable and even clichéd, but its definitely entertainment of the highest quality performed brilliantly by a terrific cast. And it left me grinning like an idiot for some time afterwards.
 
I sat next to a woman who was there for the fourth time and had already booked for two more performances. Made In Dagenham could have done with a few like her.

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Tony Peters

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