Kinky Boots Review - Adelphi Theatre

Kinky Boots has now closed at the Adelphi Theatre. See shows at the Adelphi Theatre here.

Critic Rating: *****

It's no big surprise that home-grown British musicals (with a couple of outstanding exceptions) have not faired well at the Box Office in recent years, whereas imported Broadway musicals have flourished in the West End. This trend looks set to continue with the latest offering from the Great White Way - the Tony Award-winning and utterly fabulous Kinky Boots.

Strangely the musical feels completely like a British musical, adapted from the 2005 Britflick of the same name and set in deepest, darkest Northampton, however the creative team lists New York heavyweights such as producers Daryl Roth and Hal Luftig, director Jerry Mitchell and writer Harvey Fierstein. It can't do any harm either to attach a name like Cyndi Lauper to the show, who actually picked up both a Tony and Grammy Award for providing the music and lyrics to Kinky Boots. Having seen the show now on both sides of the Atlantic, I have to say that the West End production comes out on top in my book and delivers a heart-warming authenticity that knows how to push your buttons or tug on your heartstrings at all the right places.

The plot is based on a true story (with the volume turned up to the max and with a touch of artistic license, I'm sure). It revolves around an old-school shoe factory called 'Price and Son' in Northampton, who have manufactured sturdy mens' shoes for generations. As the times have progressed and the industry has evolved, the factory has not and is close to going out of business. Charlie Price (Killian Donnelly) leaves his father's factory to escape and start a new life with persuasive fiancé Nicola (Amy Ross) in London. A short time later, his father passes away and he is summoned back to Northampton to take the wheel at the shoe factory. To save 'Price and Son' and avoid the burden of the workforce he has known his entire life losing their jobs, Charlie must find a way to adapt the business and find a niche market for the company. During a trip back to London to flog a load of surplus shoes to an old pal, he ends up crossing paths with a 'damsel in distress' in a backstreet under attack from two muggers. The damsel just happens to be a six-foot tall Drag Queen who goes by the name of Lola (Matt Henry) and can pack a hefty wallop herself. She accidentally knocks Charlie out cold with one of her thigh-high boots and a remarkable friendship is born, along with the light bulb moment of the production - Is Charlie's niche market the world of cross-dressing men and his mission to provide them with 'kinky' boots? In his own words, he decides to manufacture "a range of shoes for a range of men" and find himself along the way.

Themes of acceptance and self-discovery are the heartbeat of the show. Lauper's ballad "Not My Father's Son" beautifully summarises these two themes in one of the most moving numbers I have seen on the West End stage in a long, long time. Indeed there are several musical numbers that grow more and more on you in retrospect. The finale numbers - "Everybody Say Yeah" (Act 1) and "Raise You Up" (Act 2) - are unapologetically feel-good and send you out feeling ready to tackle a Milan fashion week catwalk yourself.

The most fascinating clash within the musical is that of the macho, closed-minded world of heterosexual men embodied by factory worker Don (Jamie Baughan) and the flamboyant, emotion-outpouring world of homosexual men that Lola represents. These two opposites collide both physically (in a boxing ring, no less) and mentally and the simple message of trying to accept somebody for who they are, rings loud and true.

Killian Donnelly provides a solid and likeable performance in a part, which by nature is doomed from the outgo to being upstaged by fabulous, crowd favourite Lola. Matt Henry earns his acting chops and finds his inner diva with his portrayal of the role, mastering the emotional depths of his own insecurities and fraught relationship with his father to great effect. He is the star of the show and doesn't disappoint. A special mention should go out too to Amy Lennox who skilfully provides another dose of comic relief as Lauren (Charlie's eventual love interest) and, of course, to the 'Angels' (Lola's six cross-dressing backing singers/dancers) whose energy and jaw-dropping appearances fill the stage and lift the audience every time they grace a scene.

This is West End entertainment at its highest level. As camp as a row of pink tents and as moving and timely as the issues that surround Gay Rights today, this show has HIT written all over it! So if you feel like throwing your arms wide open and embracing a joyous, heart-warming and glitter-infused spectacle, then your Kinky Boots were made for walking yourself down to the Adelphi Theatre!