Thoughts on Kinky Boots – the Musical

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What: Kinky Boots – The Musical
Where: Her Majesty’s Theatre, Melbourne

SPOILERS!

For more information and tickets, go to: kinkybootsthemusical.com.au

Kinky Boots, wow. What a musical! The plot revolves around Charlie, who tries to save his family’s failing shoe business after his Father’s passing. Enter drag queen, Lola or Simon, whose need for good-quality boots inspires Charlie’s need to find a niche in the shoe market. It’s based on a true story and the 2005 movie of the same name. There is no course language but there’s a lot of sexual content! If you’re not comfortable with your child listening to the lyrics of Sex is in the Hell, then you probably want to leave the little ones at home.

The strongest thing the musical has is heart. It’s that loving acceptance of embracing who you are – which I think is so important in this day and age where everyone feels like an outcast, and we’re constantly hiding who we are because we don’t want to be made fun of – Kinky Boots openingly says it is okay to be whoever you want to be! The tagline of the back of the programme says, You can the world when you change your mind – and truer words have never been written. As Lola quotes Oscar Wilde, “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken!” And remember, bullying comes out of fear – this is represented by our protagonist, Don (played wonderfully by Daniel Williston).

It’s not only about embracing who you are; but the acceptance of others, and the relationship between father and son, boyfriend and girlfriend and work colleagues. There are so many intertwining lessons to be learnt here – but done in a fun and upbeat way. I feel the strongest boils down to Lola, or rather Simon, accepting her/himself. As Lola, she is confident, fierce and ready to take on the world. As Simon, he’s more subdued, uncomfortable in his own skin and has a lot of growing left to do.

It’s a shame the people who should see this musical are the ones who won’t. The ones whose minds we need changing probably aren’t the ones most likely to buy tickets. Yes, they may be dragged in by their wives, but they probably won’t admit they liked it/saw it (even though they will!) to their mates. Men can learn a lot about woman through this!

I have a really hard time watching drag queens because I’m always so jealous of how much better they can do their hair, make up and generally dance in heels! Overall, I think they’re fabulous! – but I do have some jealously, or maybe it’s envy too. And while yes, I can walk in heels and run a little too – I can’t dance in heels or without heels, nor have I mastered the splits yet in a killer pair of stilettos! As I sat in the theatre in my casual clothes with minimal amounts of make up, staring up at these long-legged glamourzons, shimmering around in their sparkly outfits and killer heels, I couldn’t help but feel inspired to want to dress better.

I’ve always found Charlie to be an unlikable character. In the movie, I thought he was kind of a dick and didn’t deserve all the help he was receiving from Lola. They made him more likable in the musical, but not always. He’s still a little stubborn, but as any good protagonist, he is redeemed by the end.

Toby Francis, as Charlie, does an amazing job. It’s just a shame that his soliloquy, Soul of a Man is the weakest from the set list. It’s not that Toby doesn’t express the needed emotion in the song; the stage direction let’s him down and that weakness distracts from what is needing to be said. Lola’s Hold Me In Your Heart is much more powerful because she is standing still and the emotion comes from the stillness of her body and power in her words. I feel this is made evidently stronger as the two songs come after one another.

The standout, of course, is Callum Francis as Lola. The show wouldn’t work without a strong lead, and he shines! You will be fooled into thinking he’s not acting at all, but merely presenting his real life on stage, because he’s just that believable.

There’s also a sweet romance in the musical. Lauren, as played by Sophie Wright, is the right amount of sweet, humorous and quirky. If every female cannot associate with the lyrics in The History of Wrong Guys they are lying!

The costumes are the right mix of bright and colourful! The sets themselves are somewhat sometimes minimalistic, but I never once felt like I wanted more from the set. The design was well done and the moveable set pieces added to the show – a true example of this is the conveyor belt dance in Everybody Say Yeah, a spectacle to see with that same wonder of OK Go’s treadmill dance in Here It Goes Again.

There has been a lot of interest in this musical due to Cyndi Lauper’s heavy involvement in the songs and lyrics. You can hear some slight influences in the overall sound, but for the most part, your like or dislike towards her music isn’t going to effect your overall enjoyment. The songs are more pop-oriented, catchy and likely to stay with you than many other musicals. They’re the type of songs that, with more generic words, could easily translate to radio.

By the end of the show, everyone was on their feet dancing. It was very reminiscent of Strictly Ballroom, but where SB felt a little forced – KB seemed like a much more natural action. It’s feel-good. It’s fun. It’s funny. It’s a joyful, colourful spectacular of acceptance. It’s clearly evident that everyone involved in the show is having a wonderful time and that is infectious to the crowd. There’s so much to love here that I cannot recommend it enough.

The only negative I have comes in the programme itself. I feel like it’s a cop out to use photos from the original Broadway version and a let down to not use the Australian cast – even the photo I have used in this review is the original cast – as that’s what they have on their website. Our cast really deserves their photographic moment in the sun.

I have been informed that the programme now features the Australian cast. The international cast programme was only released during the preview run.

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