Kinky Boots Review

  • Our critic's rating:
    Average press rating:
    Date:
    Wednesday, September 16, 2015
    Review by:
    Mark Shenton

    When Broadway appropriated the 1997 British comedy The Full Monty, they went the full monty not just in terms of nudity (briefly but hidden from real view by the glare of spotlights from behind the actors) but also in giving it the works with a total makeover that shifted its unemployed steelworkers from Sheffield in the UK to Buffalo in upstate New York.

    The Broadway creators of the musical version of another low-budget British film comedy Kinky Boots (originally released in 2005), however, have kept its original setting of Northampton; perhaps the true story it is based on of a shoe factory that finds a new niche market in manufacturing sturdier boots for transvestite use is just the sort of quaint thing we Brits might do.

    But just the sort of quaint thing Broadway did to it was to perform it in terrible English regional accents when it was premiered there in 2013, and I’m afraid I had trouble getting past them when I saw it there. (I also freely confess that I had trouble getting past the fact that it beat Britain’s own and thoroughly better musical Matilda to that year’s Tony Award).

    However, seeing it again now brought 'home' to the Adelphi, it has gained not only in authenticity but also context: here it is one of a recent line of industrial musicals made out of films, from Billy Elliot to Made in Dagenham (that played at the same address immediately before it). So once again we have a factory on stage — but instead of a car-making one, which are difficult to wear, here it is the far more user-friendly manufacture of thigh-length boots that the show revolves around. As costumed by Gregg Barnes, the actors duly look fabulous as director/choreographer Jerry Mitchell doesn’t have them dancing so much on air as in those boots.

    It is also scripted with real feeling and heart by Broadway drag veteran Harvey Fierstein, who seems to have a cross-dresser in every show, from Torch Song Trilogy (his first) to Casa Valentina (his latest Broadway play, which coincidentally opens in London the very next night after Kinky Boots did). Singer-songwriter Cyndi Lauper, making her Broadway debut as a composer, provides the witty, sometimes gritty, pop-based songs, to tell the story of Charlie Price (Killian Donnelly) who returns to his home town to take over (and rescue) the family firm after his shoe-maker father dies. An encounter with Lola, a drag queen (Matt Henry), makes him realise there's a big untapped — and hitherto unserved — market in his industry — providing sturdy shoes for transvestites.

    Donnelly and Henry establish a lovely rapport, and both are West End stalwarts who’ve now become stars. For Donnelly, it is his third consecutive West End lead but he's now home and dry as in a class of his own. Henry may have the more showy part -- and the great boots — but it is Donnelly who steals it: what a voice!

    They’re joined by a terrific hard-working ensemble that bring this show to gleaming, authentic life and exhilarating fun.

    Kinky Boots Tickets are now on sale

     

    "You could make a case against the musical as a piece of preachy uplift about sexual tolerance. But it won me over through the quality of the lead performances, the verve of its staging and its conviction, in its fetishistic worship of thigh-high boots, that there’s no business like shoe business."
    Michael Billington for The Guardian

    "It may at times look as colourful as a pride carnival parade, but you can hear the creak of the production-line...it might seem ungracious to give it a kicking. But a kicking I feel obliged to give it."
    Dominic Cavendish for The Telegraph

    "It's good fun but, in my view, a bit too formulaic to induce rapture. You can't deny, though, that it brings a dynamic new dimension to the idea of dragging your heels."
    Paul Taylor for The Independent

    "The score by Cyndi Lauper is middling US rock, by-the-yard fare. Harvey Fierstein’s script has a few jolly moments but as many cliches."
    Quentin Letts for The Daily Mail

    External links to full reviews from popular press
    Guardian - Telegraph - Independent

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