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BWW Review: KINKY BOOTS at Regal Theatre

Bold production full of energy marks Arise Productions' debut

BWW Review: KINKY BOOTS at Regal Theatre

Arise Production's debut production of KINKY BOOTS has been a long time in the making, originally planned for September 2020 before 2020 got in the way of things the way it did. By opening night the performance was near 18 months in the making, and KINKY BOOTS delivered the sparkle, shine, and good feelings the audience wanted (and, I feel, the cast and crew needed) to welcome Arise onto the scene and give us a sign of things to come.

BWW Review: KINKY BOOTS at Regal Theatre
Manuao TeAtonga as Lola, Zaca??a??a??a??a??a??Bennett-McPhee
as Charlie, and Charlize Gosnell as Lauren

The cast was led by Zac Bennett-McPhee as Charlie and Manuao TeAtonga as Lola. Both have won Finley Awards (WA community theatre awards) for these roles previously, and their comfort and knowledge of the roles is clear. Bennett-McPhee's vocals were excellent, and his acting ensured he very much took the audience on the journey of the character. It was easy to empathise with Charlie's problems and evolution through the performance. TeAtonga put in a similarly excellent all round performance, conveying the complex relationships between Lola and the other character very well. KINKY BOOTS is mainly about accepting people for who they are and finding things in common with people who may seem quite different. The character acting conveyed that theme very well, and the two leads very much brought the audience along with them. The musical also weighs in on the discourse around the difference between femininity and being female, and TeAtonga's performance gave the audience plenty to ponder.

One stand out performance was from Charlize Gosnell as Lauren. Gosnell is relatively young and yet played the part brilliantly, with a strong vocal performance backed up by being the strong and determined character whose idea drives the entire musical being balanced perfectly by the almost melodramatic portrayal of falling in love that is as funny as it is relatable. Another excellent performance was Mia Simonette as Nicola. Her vocals were excellent (although the part of Nicola has few solo opportunities), but she was particularly striking as the headstrong and focused counter to Charlie's easygoing character. Perthonality Jamie Mercanti added real depth to the part of George in another excellent performance, whilst Taylor Westland (Pat) and Therese Cruise (Trish) very much became their respective characters. Another standout was Caleb Stevens as Don. Stevens is in his theatrical debut, yet one wouldn't know it seeing the performance. Most people would have recognized the times they've come across a similarly bigoted person like Don in their lives, but his transformation towards the end and complex relationship with Lola were particularly warming, and we can very much look forward to Daniels' future in musical theatre.

The six 'Angels' are from broad backgrounds with differing experience in drag and yet collectively they brought energy and polish to the stage, and the large ensemble performed very well given how crowded the stage got sometimes.

BWW Review: KINKY BOOTS at Regal Theatre
Lola and 'The Angels'

Credit must go to David Gray, who not only helped found Arise Productions but directed this performance. The whole musical does an excellent job of delivering its themes and everything comes together very well there. KINKY BOOTS is by no means an easy musical to do and David and his crew are to be applauded for aiming high, delivering themes and messages that are relevant, and that were portrayed to make them familiar as well. Matt McPharlin (possibly better known as drag queen BarbieQ) provided excellent choreography that matched the stage and characters brilliantly. It seemed though at times that some of the performers were more going through the dance steps than giving them feeling, but this is hardly surprising given how long the steps have likely lived in their minds. There are many facets to KINKY BOOTS, and Olivia Collier's creative direction ensured the many pieces came together perfectly to create a visual and audio spectacular. Particularly impressive was the staging, which needed very few minor changes throughout the show to create the many different scenes in the musical.

As a debut performance for a theatre company, KINKY BOOTS may seem an odd choice given its complexity and power, with its impressive list of awards perhaps being a put off. In their debut show, Arise aimed high by taking this on, and put together a cast and crew that gave the show energy and life. There were minor sound issues and some dance pieces appeared less exuberant than the scene demanded, but it is undeniable that KINKY BOOTS was as entertaining as it was heart-warming, and the finale, sung and danced by the entire cast was uplifting, leaving the audience smiling and dancing. Whilst several seasoned performers did very well, it is perhaps fitting for a new company that many of the standouts were young performers. We will see much more of these talented performers, as well as Arise Productions, in future.

KINKY BOOTS is at the Regal Theatre until May 30. Tickets through Ticketek.

All photos thanks to Amanda Humphreys Photography.


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