Kinky Boots****+ (Adelphi Theatre)

Posted: September 16, 2015 in Theatre

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You have to admire the courage of the management at the Adelphi in replacing a flop musical adapted from a low-budget film and set mainly in a British factory with a musical adapted from a low-budget film and set mainly in a British factory. Well, on second thoughts, it would have been a no-brainer for them. Apart from a weak score and some misjudgements in the book, Made in Dagenham was not all that bad, so it is interesting to ponder on the reasons why that show closed early and this one will pack them in for years (yes, even in the unpredictable world of musical theatre, some things are certain). Essentially, the difference is the Broadway ingredient, or, in other words, the WOW! factor. I reviewed the Broadway production and do not propose to go over the same ground again. I liked the show a lot in New York, but, here, I like it a lot more. The set and costumes have been imported more or less intact and the director/choreographer (Jerry Mitchell) is the same, so where has it improved? Maybe the show has come “home” and a British company is more comfortable with the characters; certainly Cyndi Lauper’s songs sound much better on re-hearing; maybe catching the show at the beginning of its run, there is more energy and zeal; or perhaps it is all down to Killian Donnelly, outstanding in a new West End musical for the third year running. Matt Henry is terrific as Lola, the flamboyant drag queen, developing further the character created originally by Chiwetel Ejiofor and Amy Lennox is adorable as the lovestruck factory girl Lauren. However Donnelly grabs the thankless role of boring, stick-in-the-mud Charlie and stamps his personality all over it; to be honest, not all of Lauper’s songs suit his soulful style, but when it comes to the appropriately titled Soul of a Man, he lets rip, steps completely out of character and brings the house down. The show falls some way short of perfection, it is over-simplistic, often trite and a few scenes are awkward in whatever way they are played. However, it warms the heart, dazzles us with spectacular choreography and sends us out onto the Strand humming the tunes and wearing broad smiles on our faces. Kinky Boots, you raise me up yet again.

Performance date: 14 September 2015

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