REVIEW: KINKY BOOTS (Blackpool Winter Gardens) ★★★★
October 3, 2019  //  By:   //  Musicals, Reviews  //  Comments are off

I had a vague knowledge of the real- life story behind Kinky Boots, from watching a BBC documentary ‘Trouble at the Top’ many years ago. Now a hit musical with book by Harvey Fierstein and music and lyrics by Cyndi Lauper, the show sashayed into Blackpool Winter Gardens this week.

As the show opens, we learn the owner of Price and Son, an old- fashioned shoe manufacturer, is looking forward to handing over the business to his son Charlie. Mr Price tells us that in his opinion the most beautiful thing in the world is a shoe.

Charlie (Joel Harper-Jackson) has other ideas. He realises the business is failing and plans to move to London with his ambitious girlfriend Nicola (Helen Ternent). In London, Charlie encounters Lola, (Kayi Ushe) a drag queen, and sees her perform ‘The Land of Lola’ with her backing dancers The Angels. Backstage, Lola complains to Charlie about the poor quality of the only boots she can find in her size.

Back in the shoe factory, it is one of the workers Lauren (Paula Lane) who has the idea that finding a niche market product may be the way forward for the factory. Paula Lane portrays Lauren as warm, down to earth and funny. In the song ‘History of Wrong Guys’ we learn she has a crush on Charlie. Charlie remembers Lola’s problem with her boots and the idea of making sturdy, sexy boots is born.

In a scene with just Charlie and Lola (who is now dressed as Simon) they learn they have quite a bit in common. In the moving song ‘Not my Father’s Son’ they both feel they have not lived up to their fathers’ expectations. Lola’s (Simon’s) dad had been keen for him to become a boxer like himself. This was far from Simon’s dreams and the line ‘I came to a realisation and I turned it round to see I could just be me’ is so poignant and inspiring.

One of my favourite characters unexpectedly turned out to be Don (Demitri Lampra) – one of the workers on the factory floor who resents Charlie’s new ideas and is very derogatory towards Lola when she visits the factory. To settle matters between them, Don and Lola set each other a challenge. Don challenges Lola to a boxing match. The fight scene is quite convincingly staged and unexpectedly Lola allows Don to win to save him embarrassment in front of his mates. This act of kindness pays off when it is a humbled Don who persuades his co-workers not to give up on Charlie.

The costumes in the finale were out of this world with all the cast including Don strutting the stage in thigh high boots with 6 inch heels. I got an insight as to how difficult must be when I struggled in low heeled ankle boots dashing around to find a taxi after the show!

The outstanding performance for me was Kayi Ushe for amazingly powerful vocals and also the tenderness in the song ‘Hold me in your Heart’ which Lola sings to her father.

Kinky Boots is a truly uplifting show; the whole packed theatre on their feet applauding and cheering at the end. A show with a message that we should all accept not only others for who they are but also ourselves.

Reviewed by Elizabeth Cowell

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