BWW Review: KINKY BOOTS - Fun Frivolity and Frisky Freedom
In June 2013 two musicals went head to head in the best musical category at the Tony Awards. One would win but both would leave their mark in the musical theatre industry as being truly special shows. Kinky Boots and Matilda are currently playing a block away from each other in Melbourne and moving audiences in their own unique way. Last night it was Kinky Boots' turn, in an opening night extravaganza, which not only lived up to its Tony Award winning billing but smashed it out of the ballpark. There is nothing particularly unique about the shows storyline, based on the 2005 film, but it has every successful ingredient of major Broadway successes before it and then throws in a truckload of glitter and fun to leave audiences feeling euphoric. Last nights opening night audience started leaping to their feet early on in the show after Land of Lola and remained there at the shows conclusion. It what was the most deserved standing ovation.
The show centres on Charlie Price a young man who inherits his fathers struggling shoe factory. Charlie has a chance encounter with a London drag queen Lola who plants the idea for Charlie to start making heels for men specifically the niche drag market. The two work together to design and create kinky boots saving the factory. It's a pretty simple story but the telling of this story is what makes Kinky Boots a magical show. Its main ingredient, fun, hits you from the start and doesn't let up. There are some beautiful poignant moments littered throughout but the shows premise of frivolity and colour, contrasting the dreary factory life of Northampton, is so wholeheartedly overwhelming.
At the very core of this is Lola, a local drag queen who comes into the shoe factory to help design the boots and at the same time manages to change the stereotypical hetero mindset of the male workers. Words cannot begin to describe the performance of Callum Francis on opening night. Mind-blowing is probably the closest words in the English language to depict his interpretation of the character and execution of the skills needed in performing it. Francis is supported flamboyantly by his Angels. Each one of these male performers are incredibly talented individuals who, when put together, form the most remarkable group of dancer singers assembled on a stage. What these men can do in heels is quite remarkable and their talent needs to be celebrated. Toby Francis plays Charlie with likeability and passion, navigating his scenes with Francis particularly well and singing the role with determination and conviction. The voicemail Charlie leaves Lola is some of Francis' best work for the evening and provides the perfect lead in to Lola's Hold Me In Your Heart. Sophie Wright as Lauren masters the comic timing of commenting on herself brilliantly endearing the character to her audience. Daniel Williston as Don and Nathan Carter as George provide memorable comedic highlights throughout the show, while the ensemble is filled with remarkable singer actors who help make this show the gem that it is.
Kinky Boots is not only known for winning 6 tony awards but also for its creative team. Cyndi Lauper, has written a brilliantly catchy score that combines both a pop and traditional musical theatre soundscape. Luke Hunter musically directs Lauper's score with great care and has the orchestra sounding incredibly precise. Harvey Fierstein has generated a ultra funny book and Jerry Mitchell does what Jerry Mitchell does and that's direct this piece to perfection throwing in a handful of magic on top.
We are blessed to have two diverse, different and quite special shows side by side in Melbourne at the moment. Kinky Boots has delivered in a quite sensational way and will leave its mark on many in Melbourne, across Australia and in the 6 other cities its currently playing in around the world. It's how theatre should be done in every way and in this case it's done to perfection.
Her Majesty's Theatre
Exhibition St Melbourne