I try not to revel in the misery of others. The exceptions I make for this rule are limited to: when someone is mean and they stub their toe, when someone I love accidentally sends a text about their ex to their ex, and when someone has to give theatre tickets up.
So when Hazel, the lovely Hazel, sadly passed over her tickets for the Kinky Boots preview night, despite her clear reluctance, I couldn’t help fist pump. Sorry Hazel.
Telling the kinda-true-story of a Northamptonshire shoe factory that, despite their passion for men’s brogues, just can’t shift footwear. The defeated Charlie, who hesitantly inherits the boring business, stumbles across Lola. Lola, a six foot black drag queen who demands the sexiness of blood red and skyscraper heels, struggles to find boots that fit the sauciness bill, and round her size fourteen tootsies.
Lo and behold, in true fairytale musical fashion, this unlikely duo make a dynamite pair, and frolic into the sunset with a song and a touch of sass.
— Kinky Boots UK (@KinkyBootsUK) September 1, 2015
The London production of Kinky Boots was incredible. Lola, the real star of the show, gave me shivers when she sang, and certainly got the biggest laughs out of the audience- for all the right reasons. As with any drag character, there is a way to play them that pays homage to their humour and daring without turning them into pantomime leftovers, and I must say that Matt Henry gives Lola all the life, warmth and wit she deserves.
My love of drag artists and the talent of Matt Henry had me pining after more Lola scenes- I tweeted Andrew Lloyd-Webber during the interval letting him know I’d be more than happy to throw my money at a musical about her day to day life. Unfortunately, as is so often the case, (I’m looking at you, Orange is the New Black), the side characters are more interesting than the main characters, and Kinky Boots is no exception.
As much as you grow to love Charlie, he takes a few scenes before you really feel for him. In fact, it’s not until he has a meltdown, launching an attack on Lola, that I have any real investment in him. I guess that’s the curse of playing a guy who’s defining characteristic is not being all that sure of himself- but Killian Donnely knocks it out of the park when he belts out ‘Soul of a Man’.
The stand out moment for me, despite there being so many to choose from, is an easy win for the incredibly funny The History of Wrong Guys. Lauren, who has an inadvised crush, tries to convince herself- to no avail- that she doesn’t fancy our hapless protagonist Charlie. Funny, light and smart songs like this punctuate the whole show.
Kinky Boots is a real strutter of a show, and I cannot honestly recommend a better way to spend an evening. Not until Lola gets her own solo stint at my local pub, anyway.