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Theatre Review: Kinky Boots

29 May 19 words: Beverley Makin

Fresh from Northampton, two and a half feet of tubular sex!

Kinky Boots is one of those films that musical loving fans see and think – ‘Oooh, that would be great on stage!’.

In 2012, seven years after the film, Kinky Boots the musical premiered in Chicago and has been touring the world ever since. With 6 Tony wins and three Olivier Awards under it's belt, it is a much-anticipated visitor to Nottingham. You get some idea of what you’re in for when you arrive at the Theatre Royal and are confronted by a pair of giant (and I mean GIANT) red boots!

If you are familiar with the 2005 film there are a few differences but it still follows the real life struggles of a young factory owners son trying to save the family shoe factory in 90s Northampton, at a time when UK manufacturers were desperately struggling to compete with cheap foreign imports.

Manufacturing woe may not sound like the stuff of musicals but the fun starts when our leading man Charlie Price (based on Steve Pateman) gets into a chance scrape in Soho that gives him an idea of how he can revive his family business’s fortunes – footwear for Drag Queens! As when it comes to thigh length stilettos in a size 10 they just don't last. What the glittered drag world really needs is Northampton's finest, hand stitched, steel reinforced, kinky boots - two and a half feet of tubular sex!

London drag darling Lola (played magnificently by Kayi Ushe) joins forces with Charlie (Joel Harper-Jackson) to design the perfect boot. They get off to a rocky start and Lola must confront a huge amount of prejudice and misunderstandings from the seemingly straight laced factory workforce, but in the process discovers more about himself.

Charlie goes on a similar journey. Having put on hold his move to a London marketing career with his fiancé Nicola and trying to break from his late fathers shadow, he acknowledges his own growing compassion for the factory staff he grew up with and the impact his choices and actions can have on others.

As Charlie and Lola strive to ready a collection for the catwalks of Milan they form an unlikely friendship, realising a dramatic Drag Queen from Clackton and an aspiring Marketing Executive from Northampton have a surprising amount in common. Especially when it comes to sexy boot worship.

Music and lyrics by Cyndi Lauper and some spectacular choreography care of Darren Carnall take us through the factories design and production of said ‘Kinky Boots’ to Milan to show their new products to the world. Unlike the film the show score doesn't have any classic ear worm hits but the disco beats were uplifting and the perfect showcase for Lola and company.

I was a little concerned that my fondness for Chiwetel Ejiofor as Lola in the film would leave me cold about Kayi Ushe – not the case. He was amazing and it was only right that he was the absolute star and focus of the stage production, alongside an absolutely first rate ensemble. It also can’t go unmentioned that he was flanked by his ‘Angels’ from his London club at every opportunity, serving up fabulous set piece numbers in stupendous costumes. Six incredibly talented dancers who can do amazing things in stilettos.

The real Kinky Boot factory (Devine Footwear) sadly didn't survive but despite that I guarantee you will leave the theatre feeling energised and uplifted. The joyous standing ovation at the end was well deserved. If you liked the film you'll love this show.

Kinky Boots plays at Nottingham's Theatre Royal until Saturday 1 June 2019.

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