"Verve and vim by the bootful"
-The Daily Mail-

"Its energy is infectious"
-The Evening Standard-

"There's no business like shoe business."
-The Guardian-

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Who knew footwear could be this much fun?

Critic Rating

1 September 2015, Adelphi Theatre
Guest Reviewer Guest Reviewer
It’s a topsy-turvy world where a British film set in Northampton becomes a Tony-winning Broadway musical but Kinky Boots has finally made its way back to the UK to score a huge theatrical success in the West End. Based on the true story that Geoff Deane and Tim Firth’s film adapted, Harvey Fierstein’s book is undoubtedly a feelgood ride through factory failure, footwear and fate - and the way in which its high-strutting energy conquers the stage of the Adelphi is utterly thrilling to watch.

Life as the scion of a small-town shoe factory manager is getting Charlie Price down, but the moment he leaves for London with his girlfriend, his father’s death sends him back to Northampton. Falling sales and import competition suggests closing Price and Son is the best solution, but a chance encounter with a drag queen named Lola opens his mind to a potentially lucrative market – properly-made women’s boots for men who dress as women – he just needs to convince Lola to design them, the factory workers to make them and his girlfriend to abandon dreams of the capital.

The tale is certainly entertaining but getting Cyndi Lauper to compose the score is the real masterstroke. Though this is her first effort at writing for the stage, she skillfully serves up fierce anthems for drag queens (‘Land of Lola’ is as iconic an introductory number for Matt Henry), quirky character numbers (Amy Lennox nails the amusing ‘The History of Wrong Guys’) and rousing full company numbers to bring the curtain down (you’ll be singing Act 1 closer ‘Everybody Say Yeah’ for days!).  Thanks to her superlative work as an LGBT activist, the sincerity that underlines the quieter moments of introspection is utterly heartfelt – the emotive power of ‘Not My Father’s Son’ is just a knockout as Henry and Killian Donnelly’s Charlie connect through their unique but comparably troubled relations with their fathers. Even if Fierstein’s book wraps things up perhaps a little too schematically in the race to the end, Lauper ensures good feeling and fun remains uppermost.

With the vibrant performances of Jerry Mitchell’s production, it is hard to keep from smiling. Matt Henry’s wise-cracking, wig-snatching Lola is strong-voiced and infinitely wise, Killian Donnelly’s everyman charm is perfectly suited to Charlie’s slow-burn awakening and Amy Lennox is a scene-stealing delight as the unlucky-in-love Lauren. Lola’s team of Angels are also striking, especially with Mitchell’s choreography and the thrillingly staged scenes on the moving conveyor belt.

It may have taken its time to get here, but there’s no doubting that this is where Kinky Boots belongs. Warm-hearted and well-judged, who knew footwear could be this much fun? Wholeheartedly recommended.

Reviewed by Ian Foster


Quentin Letts
Savour that sole. Broadway import Kinky Boots is a cheerily over-the-top musical about, er, the footwear industry in Northampton. Throw in a chorus line – I almost said second row – of statuesque drag queens, some of whom do stage acrobatics in three-inch high heels. I swear the Adelphi’s foundations shuddered.
Henry Hitchings
It would also be easy to pick holes in the contrived plot. But the set pieces are pulsatingly choreographed and there is no shortage of catchy tunes. With its infectious energy and richly enjoyable performances, Kinky Boots feels like a show that has got legs.
Michael Billington
The show is ultimately powered by Matt Henry as Lola. Good as Chiwetel Ejiofor was in the movie, he always made you believe more in Lola’s past as a heavyweight boxer than in his present as a Soho drag queen. Henry, however, is both muscular and at ease in mascara. He makes you feel Lola takes pride in his profession, dismissing recreational transvestites as people “who look like Winston Churchill in their mum’s knickers”. A finalist in BBC’s The Voice, Henry also sings up a storm.

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Paul Taylor
As you might expect from a musical with Harvey (Torch Song TrilogyCage Aux Folles) Fierstein on board, this Broadway show does not downplay the drag-queen angle. Lauper's poppy, nicely varied – if lyrically straggly – score gets off to a sweetly tuneful start but really kicks with “Sex Is In The Heel” and the Act One finale “Everybody Say Yeah” which turns into a joyous romp on the assembly line conveyor-belt that splits and reconfigures as if it has Busby Berkeley longings.

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Michael Coveney
Following the story of Tim Firth's screenplay for Julian Jarrold's 2005 movie starring Chiwetel Ejiofor as a drag queen who saves a failing shoe business in Northampton (where the local soccer team is known, not without good reason, as the Cobblers), Jerry Mitchell's stage version releases the grown-up tolerance theme - crossing sexual borders, loving your dad, finding yourself, etc - into feisty, traditional musical theatre areas of coming on strong, living the dream and saving the show.

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