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Kinky Boots UK Tour arrives alive and kicking at the Manchester Opera House

Reviewed by Ian Hills Wythenshawe FM 97.2  13th November 2018

Since winning the 2016 Olivier Award for Best New Musical, Kinky Boots is the winner of every major Best Musical award and is the most anticipated show to tour the UK this year. Based on a true story when a London based store specialising in glamour wear for Transvestites and Drag Queens wanted some high heeled boots in men’s sizes contacted a shoe factory in Northampton who produced handmade shoes.

It was brought to life by author Harvey Fierstein for the theatre and was made into a feature film in 2005. With songs by Grammy and Tony winning Cyndi Lauper, this fabulous musical celebration is about the friendships we discover, and the belief that you can change the world when you change your mind. 0

Kinky Boots takes you from the factory floor to the glamorous catwalks of Milan. Charlie Price, played by Joel Harper Jackson, is struggling to live up to his father’s expectations and continue the family business of Price & Son with the shoe factory future hanging in the balance help arrives in the unlikely but spectacular form of Lola, played by Callum Francis, a Drag Queen performer in need of some sturdy new stilettos.

Kinky Boots stars two different characters, we have Charlie from Northampton set to inherit the family shoe factory and Lola, Simon who is a performer in a London Drag Queen club they both have a problem with their fathers which is revealed later.

The opening scene takes place inside the Price and Sons beautiful Victorian shoe factory with the big musical numbers including some brilliant dancing and singing on a moving conveyor belt When we see Simon as Lola in the night club ‘The Land of  Lola’ dressed in a long red sequin dress, full wig, makeup and in red boots you don’t see Simon but a fabulous Lola strutting down the stage with an impressive command of stilettos that most women could only dream of with his six Angels. It’s the first time we hear the fabulous singing voice of Callum Francis and what an entrance.

Charlie realises thigh-high boots for drag queens could be the niche market he needs to save the shoe factory, he invites Lola and the Angels to the factory to design the kinky boots.  The end of Act 1 for me has one of the best Cyndi Lauper songs ‘Everybody Says Yeah’.

Act two is getting the high heeled boots ready for the most prestigious footwear show in Milan, a wonderful moment when Lola and the Angels arrived at the midlands-based shoe factory to meet the workers. Time is running out to have the boots ready for the Milan show tempers are short the workers walk out, and Lola goes back home to Clacton, but all is not lost the kinky boots are finally ready, Lola and the Angels arrive back to save the show as the Italian models have not been booked through lack of funds. In Milan Lola and the Angels sashaying down the walkway as transvestites dressed in glamorous outfits with thigh high heeled boots, they are the new stars of the shoe fashion world and the factory is saved.

Paula Lane, Lauren (ex Coronation Street) returns as one of the factory girls makes the character her own and is the love interest when she falls for her new boss Charlie, told in her very moving solo ‘The History of Wrong Guys’ I enjoyed Don, Demitri Lampra’s, another factory worker performance who takes on Simon in a boxing match.  My favourite songs in act 2 are Hold me in your Heart and Raise you Up/Just Be had the audience on their feet.

Kinky Boots has a great cast, flamboyant, theatrical, camp, celebrates drag culture, very funny and sad, with music and songs by Cyndi Lauper. It  is a fabulous production, one of the best shows in Manchester this year.

Finally on a personal note, I was part of a BBC TV crew who filmed the late Cilla Black when she visited a men’s shoe factory in Northampton, it would be a wonderful coincidence if it was the same factory Kinky Boots was based on in true life.

Showing at the Opera House till Saturday 1st December.

Ticket Box Office 0844 871 3018. Online www.atgtickets.com/manchester.

 

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