Taking serious liberties with the original story, Kinky Boots the musical offers audiences a scaled up and stunning recap on the rescued Northampton shoe factory. Amplifying the down-to-earth narrative with lively tracks, the story follows Charlie Price’s struggle to turn around his failing family business following the death of his father. After a chance encounter with drag queen Lola, the Price & Sons shoe factory takes on a new clientele inspired by his newest friend.
The show already has a long history, starting with the 1999 BBC2 documentary series Trouble at the Top, before being made into the 2015 film, Kinky Boots starring Chiwetel Ejiofor. The tough British framing of its documentary and film is uplifted and lightened by its musical counterpart. Its honest portrayal alongside the audience’s natural laugh track makes the remake a relaxed, feel-good success.
The musical debuted in 2013, following along closely to the film’s screenplay and once again respawning the interest in Price & Sons. While branching out into a new niche market of fetish footwear for drag queens, the musical score amps up the dry British humour with powerful, eccentric performances. It is no surprise that the relatable musical has been a custom-made hit as co-writer of the musical Calendar Girls, Tim Firth is attached as the song and screenwriter alongside pop lyricist Cyndi Lauper’s.
The production presents an intricate show that counters Lola’s snazzy costumes with the local’s mullet wigs and the strenuous choreography of the Angels, with delicate solos from Charlie and Lola. Layering the show with the best of both worlds, its central set is split between two levels where Charlie's office hovers above his floored factory. Switching swiftly between the factory and Lola’s club where Lola’s backing dancers, the Angels are more than happy to lend a hand to Charlie in the designing and modelling of Lola’s stilettos.
The not so subtle explosion of head turning, radiant reds cover the costumes and props as Lola insists on making her killer heels in her signature colour. Unfurling in numerous dance numbers, Lola and the Angels burst through the songs Land of Lola and Sex Is in the Heel to bring a breath of fresh air to the scenes of the plain jane factory. Never wobbly in their stilettos, the long dance numbers that including conveyer belt choreography and weighty British themes costumes, complete with headpieces are superbly performed.
Callum Francis has a beautiful voice, carrying the audience in the palm of his hands from his first routine. The scene-stealing moments all come from the Mancunian performer and when Lola struts out of a room, a void is honestly felt. Unfortunately, the remaining cast is not given the most memorable songs to work with. But regardless of the slower moving scenes, Kinky Boots cocoons its audience in a warm embrace from head to toe. Its fast-moving plot is aided by the shows talented co-star, Joel Harper-Jackson who makes for a lovable Charlie despite his turbulent second half.
When the finale, Raise You Up allows Charlie to stand in somebody else’s shoes, the show offers a perfect strutting send-off to its audience. Kinky Boots the musical colours outside the lines of reality to offer a charming and engaging revision of the real W, J. Brooks Ltd story.