Cyndi Lauper’s ‘Kinky Boots’ a one person show

In a sea of musical theatre it’s tough to stand out, but Kinky Boots is a gloriously sequined fish that swims against the current.  The musical, set in modern day Northampton, beautifully shares with us the story of a most unlikely partnership, that between Charlie—a young man whose recently deceased father has bequeathed to him a struggling shoe factory—and Lola, a hypnotic-livewire drag queen who spreads joy wherever she moves as the duo seek to revive the fortunes of ‘Price & Sons’.

As you’d expect from such a coupling, the partnership doesn’t suggest itself immediately.  After learning of his father’s inheritance, Charlie’s clutching and materialistic girlfriend, Nicola, wants to transform the factory into apartments, while Charlie’s concerns lie in protecting the future employment of his workers; all against the backdrop of a ticking clock as the firm is close to bankruptcy.  This is where Lola enters the frame; as a shoe designer with a novel idea and the personality with pzazz who may just be able to resurrect the daggy brand.

The story ebbs and flows between Charlie’s narrative—which centres around whether Charlie has trivialised his father’s legacy—and Lola/Simon’s narrative about the homophobic abuse he suffered as a boy at the hands of his father.  Charlie’s predictable nature and very vanilla solos are a glaring weakness in terms of the lyrics and score, which are written by Cyndi Lauper.  These moments of calm become stark when countered against the explosive high kicks and bright lights of Lola and her Girls.

The lead of Lola (played by Callum Francis) is one of the most captivating characters to grace the stage in the history of musical theatre.  Lola shook her way into everyone’s heart making the women giddy, impressing the men and providing a great example to ‘those who are yet to make up their minds.’  The musical and theatrical vigour that follows Lola around the stage quickly makes you forget the general banality of Charlie’s performance, which is all but consumed by Lola’s presence, which engulfs the stage with enough energy to power a small nation.

The rest of the ensemble cast deliver comic relief between numbers, after standing relatively statically during them.  By the end of Act 1 Lola has the entire audience eating out of her hands while Charlie’s story (in spite of the music) has us emotionally involved in both his work and love life.

Kinky Boots had the audience cackling with laughter, tearing up and gushing with pride.  It’s a celebration of life in drag and the parade of heels and glitter that goes along with it.  The soundtrack provides some incredibly strong numbers (all from Lola/Simon), in particular the performances of the tunes ‘Land of Lola’, ‘Hold me in your Heart’, and ‘Not My Fathers Son’.

All up, Kinky Boots is a musical with a great moral centre, a few incredible and memorable tunes, great characters and a fun story.  It will make you want to watch it over and over again, but the next time, tapping your feet in a pair of sequined heels.

 

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