BWW Review: Why Cape Town Can't Stop Talking About KINKY BOOTS at The Fugard Theatre
Bursting at the seams with professionalism, passion and unbridled provocation, KINKY BOOTS at The Fugard Theatre has welcomed full audiences since its debut over a month ago and, from just 5 minutes into the show, it's easy to see why. The Harvey Fierstein/Cyndi Lauper hybrid production garnered multiple awards in its prime, and this original South African rendition is without a doubt deserving of equal accolades.
Charlie Price is reluctantly tasked with taking over the family shoe business which he inherits after his father's death. Pressured by his high-flying fiancé and with no interest in shoes, he is struggling to save the failing shoe factory. By chance he meets Lola, a vivacious drag artist, whose idea for targeting a niche market with sexier shoe types might do the trick to save Price & Sons. KINKY BOOTS is more than just a story of unlikely business partners, however, and there's a great heart, soul and message behind the red patent leather.
The show itself is written in an interesting manner where it combines "traditional" musical theatre type with more popular song styles - Lauper's hand coming through strongly in some numbers. This brings a refreshing take on the musical and also does wonders for KINKY BOOTS to appeal to a wide range of audiences. The entire likability of the production radiates off the stage with help from an energetic cast and had the audience singing and clapping along.
Darren Craig hasn't graced Cape Town with his talent on stage in a while, but he is back with a bang in his Fugard debut in KINKY BOOTS. He brings a charming characterization to the role of Charlie that is only superseded by his vocal skills. Also making his Fugard debut as lead role Lola/Simon's alternate, Tshepho Ncokoane not only stepped up to the plate in the role but completely exceeded all expectations. From Lola's first number he was captivating; so much so that he captured my attention even in the largest ensemble numbers.
Another notable cast member is Namisa Mdalalose as Lauren, one of Charlie's employees and number one supporters. Her emotive facial expressions are unmatched by anyone else in the ensemble and she has a voice I hope we hear a lot more of in the future. Aside from Ncokoane, the young actress was the next best scene stealer. Lastly, an honourable mention to Lola's Angels, Nathan Ro as Don, and Lucy Tops as Pat.
A production of this scale cannot be taken on without a talented crew behind it. Director Matthew Wild turns the Fugard stage into a lustrous slice-of-life playground where the only chemistry stronger than Lola's outfit combinations is between the ensemble itself. There could have perhaps been a bit more work with romantic relationships in the show to add to their believability, but this can be easily overlooked when focusing on KINKY BOOTS as a whole.
For a show that revolves around appearance, some outfits were greeted by literal (good) gasps from audience members. It goes without saying that Birrie Le Roux has done wonders in creating tasteful yet flamboyant costumes for KINKY BOOTS. The risks taken in terms of choreography in this production were some of the most ambitious I've seen on the Fugard stage and were, at times, even riskier than the Broadway production. Well done to Louisa Talbot for her inventive moves and making the most of an agile and diverse cast. The set design also works fantastically for the space; with a two-tiered warehouse setup proving its versatility throughout and a unique setting for the band.
The wait for KINKY BOOTS was well worth it. Although it's been extended to the 27th of October, don't wait a minute longer to get to this glamorously unforgettable hit.
Photo credit: Jesse Kramer and Claude Barnardo
KINKY BOOTS will be performed at The Fugard Theatre from Tuesdays to Saturdays at 8pm with a matinee performance on Saturdays and Sunday at 3pm. Tickets ranging from R220 to R470 can be booked through The Fugard Theatre box office on 021 461 4554 or through The Fugard Theatre's website at www.thefugard.com.