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Review: KINKY BOOTS - THE MUSICAL IN CONCERT, Theatre Royal Drury Lane

The feel-good musical is back!

Review: KINKY BOOTS - THE MUSICAL IN CONCERT, Theatre Royal Drury Lane

Review: KINKY BOOTS - THE MUSICAL IN CONCERT, Theatre Royal Drury Lane Boy, has the West End missed the wit and sparkle of Kinky Boots! As part of the concert series at Theatre Royal Drury Lane, last night saw the first in two special concert-versions of the show, that served to remind audiences just what they had been missing.

Returning to the West End for the first time since 2019, the multi-award-winning show is as joyful as ever, raising the immaculate roof of the theatre.

Based on a true story, the show follows Charlie Price, who turns his father's struggling shoe factory into a success by making outrageous thigh-high boots, after a chance meeting with drag queen Lola. Through their friendship, each learns the value of kindness and mutual acceptance.

When it debuted in 2015, the show blazed a trail of bringing drag and LGBTQ+ issues into the mainstream. Since then, shows like Everyone's Talking About Jamie have been long-running successes. Even so, the subject material feels as fresh as ever and, unlike some other current shows, never feels preachy or political in its message of tolerance and understanding peoples' differences.

In a great cast, Cedric Neal, currently one of the most impressive singers in Back To The Future: The Musical, played Lola as confidently as though he had been in the role for years. He belted out the tunes like "Land of Lola" with depth and attitude, but maintained a softer side with a spinetingling version of the heartbreaking duet "Not My Father's Son" with Joel Harper-Jackson, replacing Matt Jay Willis as Charlie.

Harper-Jackson is hot property at the moment and gained great reviews in the very recent concert version of Chess. He played Charlie in the 2019 tour of the show, so was visibly comfortable in the role. He brings necessary heart to the role, with a loveable awkwardness. Excellent vocals are in evidence, as well as an intense likability.

Courtney Bowman, fresh from her role as Elle in Legally Blonde, is excellent as Lauren; her unrequited love for Charlie is touching and she embraces the role with wonderful quirkiness and warmth. "The History of Wrong Guys" is suitably funny and showcases her powerful range.

Many of the highlights of the stage show feature Lola's Angels. Fans will be pleased to know that, even though this is billed as a concert, the Angels are back, albeit with a role mainly limited to strutting around the stage and snapping their fans with attitude. As Referee Angel, Ashley Samuels gives a brief but standout performance at the boxing match. Kayleigh McKnight and Nikki Bentley also give everything to their smaller roles of Trish and Pat respectively.

The London Musical Theatre Orchestra and Chorus are on brilliantly vibrant form, led by an energetic Freddie Tapener. Ben Cracknell's lighting design adds punctuation to the production, but there was a consistent lag with the spotlights, meaning some performers were sometimes singing in darkness.

Director Omar F Okai gives the audience more than they might expect for a concert performance, with costume changes, props and even a few (slightly stilted) dance routines.

What is clear is there is an enduring appetite for this show, with its uplifting and joyful message and some cracking tunes. The cast has a brilliant chemistry and would make compelling choices if the show came back to the West End. Here's hoping!

Kinky Boots The Musical In Concert is showing tonight (9 August) at Theatre Royal Drury Lane

Photo Credit: Mark Senior




From This Author - Aliya Al-Hassan

Aliya Al-Hassan is UK Managing Editor of BroadwayWorld. A London-based theatre critic and journalist, she has a life-long passion for the arts, with a focus on theatre and opera. She is a... (read more about this author)


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