★★★ | Kinky Boots, London

It’s a huge hit on Broadway and it’s now finally opened in London. ‘Kinky Boots’ is in the house!

If the name rings a bell, it’s because Kinky Boots was a 2005 film about a struggling shoe factory about to go out of business until they change their product line and start making boots that are sexy, and, literally, not worn by the everyday woman. The musical version of Kinky Boots follows the same story, but it’s got a book by Harvey Fierstein (Torch Song Trilogy and La Cage Aux Folles – books he also wrote), music and lyrics by Cyndi Lauper (“Girls Just Want to Have Fun”), and choreography by Jerry Mitchell (The Full Monty and Hairspray). That’s a lot of power and muscle behind a show, and it works, to a degree. (The show won six Tony Awards).

Killian Donnelly (the breakout star of The Commitments and co-star of Memphis) easily and comfortably plays Charlie Price, whose late father leaves him his shoe factory in Northhampton. It’s losing money, and Price might be forced to close it down, something that would make his London-bound fiancee Nicola (Amy Ross) happy. By chance, he comes to the aid of a drag queen who is being beaten up in a park. The Drag queen, Lola, played very ably and loudly by Matt Henry, is grateful to Price for saving him. But their meeting turns into a business relationship where Lola plants the idea into Price’s head to have his factory make Kinky Boots – boots for him and his fellow drag queens – boots that are big, flashy and preferably red! And eventually, Lola gives up her life (and leaves her fellow drag queens) in London to go up north to help in the factory to lead in the design of some Kinky Boots. But he’s not too accepted in a town and factory where no drag queen has walked in heels before. Even though he’s dressed as a man, some of the other workers make fun of him, especially Don (Jamie Braughan), who challenges Lola to a boxing match. Of course, conflict and arguments take place between Price and Lola, and Lola decides that she’s had enough of the northerners and heads back down to London. Meanwhile, Price is being wooed by one his employees – Lauren (Amy Lennox – wonderful) But it’s bad timing as Price is about to show his latest models of shoes at a Milan fashion show – he’s got no Lola, no models, and tons of shoes that need to be worn.

And you can only guess what will happen next. To say this show is predictable is an understatement.

While there are no surprises in the plot, it’s the music that raises the show up a notch or two. Lauper has injected her personality into songs that only she can write – when all the actors sing “Everybody Say Yeah” – it’s a song that will stick in your head for the rest of the night – in a good way. And of course each actor has their own song moment – Donnelly sings his heart out in “Soul of a Man” while Lola is given “Hold Me In Your Heart”- a song that highlights his very deep baritone voice in a soulful way (it sounds a bit like the song in Dreamgirls – “And I am Telling you I’m not Going”. If there’s one person who steals the show it’s Lennox – she’s hysterical in the role of Price’s colleague who pines for him while he’s focused on keeping the business afloat.

Production values are fine – the set morphs from factory to the fashion show. For me it’s the drag queens that make this show good – their sparkling clothing and sass and attitude and sequins are just right – for without them Kinky Boots wouldn’t be so Kinky at all.

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At the Adelphi Theatre 020 3725 7068 | http://www.kinkybootsthemusical.co.uk/tickets.php

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