‘Kinky Boots’ Bring High-Heeled Kick to London Stage: Review | BLOUIN ARTINFO
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‘Kinky Boots’ Bring High-Heeled Kick to London Stage: Review

‘Kinky Boots’ Bring High-Heeled Kick to London Stage: Review
Kinky Boots props
(Kinky Boots London)

Kinky boots have been around for a very long time in the UK, almost before London was truly swinging in the 1960s.

One of the key bands of the time, the Kinks, all dedicated followers of fashion, got the name from their clothes - and especially, according to more than one account, their kinky Chelsea boots.

Fast forward a few decades. Now we have “Kinky Boots,” the musical, on the London stage. Refreshingly kinky it is. If you like that sort of thing.

Either way, there are high heels, high drama, high hair, huge hearts and shoe-size-12 songs.

It won’t be everyone’s choice but, boy, does it have its moments.

For those who don’t know, first came the true story, of the WJ Brooks shoemaking factory in Northampton, England. It made men’s footwear – staid shoes of quality, costing a highish price but likely to last for years. Cheap imports started to kill its business and the boss Steve Pateman, the fourth generation of the family owners, very reluctantly had to fire workers in the 1990s.

This changed when he was asked by a fetish store to create ladies’ shoes for men. Within a couple of years, half of the company’s revenue was from “kinky boots.”

It all sounds a fun plot, full of roller-coaster emotions and the potential for conflict from workers unhappy at changing from respectable to outrageous: one day making boring brown flat brogues, and the next thigh-high pink jackboots.

From this came a BBC documentary “Trouble at the Top: The Kinky Boot Factory” in 1999, a movie adaption in 2005 and a Broadway musical in 2013.

Along the way the story moved further from reality but got more entertaining by adding songs and most notably Lola (a nod to the Kinks, of course.) Lola is a drag queen and potential customer, fond of telling people that “Sex Is in the Heel” – the title of one of the songs - and red is the color of passion.

Cyndi Lauper’s score won one of six Tonys the show received on Broadway, including Best Musical.

Not bad for her first such attempt at a stage work.

No, actually, that’s too mild: the score is one of the best things of this London transfer.

It’s easy to feel allergic to the hokey plot – transgender references are kept in nearly the best possible taste and so family friendly enough. But it’s difficult to get away from the feel-good of songs such as “Everyone Say Yeah” and the closing “Raise You Up” or “What a Woman Wants” (shades of “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.”) Or feel a little affected at ballads like “Not My Father’s Son.”

Killian Donnelly does well as the factory owner, here renamed Charlie Price, who faces insecurities about his family legacy and love life with factory worker and fiancée Lauren. The subplot of their romance does seem a little grafted on. Lola is Matt Henry, whose cabaret style is full of energy and he gets many of the best lines and dance moves.

It’s more than a match for some of the other musicals around. Sadly “Made in Dagenham” is no longer in London. Even so, it includes the original kinky boots merchants, the Kinks: the unrelated jukebox musical “Sunny Afternoon” continues to strut its stuff at the Harold Pinter Theatre. “Waterloo Sunset” is still a classic, but elsewhere, in the West End, the patent-leather boot is going in.

 

 

At the Adelphi Theatre London to February 6, 2016. Information: www.kinkybootsthemusical.co.uk