REVIEW: Kinky Boots (Sunderland Empire) ★★★★★
June 26, 2019  //  By:   //  Musicals, Reviews  //  Comments are off

Shoes really are ‘the most beautiful thing in the world’ as Kinky Boots sashays in to Sunderland as part of the UK tour

The true story of W. J. Brookes, who was featured in a BBC documentary, inspired the film Kinky Boots which inspired this fabulous musical. With a book by Harvey Fierstein and music and lyrics by Cyndi Lauper – American theatre royalty have sent this story of this small Northampton firm world wide.

After the sad death of his father, Charlie Price (Joel Harper-Jackson) inherits Price and Son, the family shoe making business in Northampton. Charlie had left home to live in London with fiancee Nicola (Helen Ternent) and returns to the factory with the idea of closing it down and giving the loyal staff notice after dwindling sales. Factory worker Lauren (Paula Lane) points out that other shoe factories have diversified to keep sales and tells Charlie he needs to find his niche market, which he finds accidentally in the form of Lola (Kayi Ushe) a stunningly glamorous 6 foot Drag Queen. Charlie decides the factory needs to make heels that will take the weight of men and will show the new product in Milan.

Lauper’s score will take you on a roller coaster of emotions. From everyone belly laughing at The History of Wrong Guys performed with perfect comic timing by Lauren, to the breathtaking Hold me in Your Heart by Lola which had audience members living every word and the stunning Not My Father’s Son dueted Lola and Charlie.

Joel Harper-Jackson was superb. His vocal ability was astonishing and he such empathy and really captured the audience and held us throughout the show. However, the standout performance of this show, was Kayi Ushe as the incomparable Lola, who served fabulous sass, iconic movement and soul destroying vocals all packed into this one performance. Ushe managed to have the audience crying with laughter in one moment and weeping with emotion in the next.

The ensemble were, as always, astounding. Whether they were Lola’s backing dancers – The Angels (the very beautiful Connor Collins, John J Dempsey, Damon Gould, Joshua Lovell, Chileshe Mondelle and Toyan Thomas-Browne) or factory workers – Don (Demitri Lampra) who finds Lola a challenge to his masculinity, factory manager George (Adam Price) and Pat (Lizzie Bea),

Harry (Joshua St Clair), Trish (Niki Evans) and the other members of the ensemble, completely lifted the show, each having the most incredibly believable stories and influences backing up their individual characters. It never fails to amaze me just how high those dancers can get their legs (and just how sparkly Gregg Barnes costumes are). They really were the ultimate ensemble – providing great entertainment and talent on their own, whilst supporting the rest of the show. The cast were doing some publicity shots as I arrived at the theatre and I ended up stood at the side of Toyan Thomas-Browne whose gorgeous shapely legs finished at the height of my shoulders. It can make you feel quite dowdy when you stand next to such a stunningly beautiful performer.

Kinky Boots is a beautiful story of acceptance, acceptance of others but also of yourself. The ending will have you on your feet and sends you home with a spring in your step and joy in your heart.

Reviewed by Susan Lindsay

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