17 September 2015

Outrageous fun with Kinky Boots at the Adelphi Theatre

Despite going to musicals quite regularly I would not have gone to see Kinky Boots if not for an offer through the social club at work. I had heard of the show and had heard of the good reception that it had but I prefer my musicals in small venues, like the Union Theatre, and I tend to avoid the West End blockbusters.

Price is a factor in this. Offers abound for group bookings etc. but the headline prices for the best seats are over £100 these days and I can go to Glyndebourne for that (almost!). It is the perceived value that annoys me. I'll happily pay over £100 to see something a Philip Glass opera but somehow it does not seem worth paying that for a trashy musical.

That's where the social club discount swayed the balance and I paid just £20 for my stalls seat.

Though I had heard of the show I had not head that much about what was in it so the story came as something of a surprise to me, but clearly not to the many gay men and middle-aged women in the audience who were clearly there to see Lola/Simon and who whooped with delight every time he flounced on to the stage. I grew up watching acts like Danny La Rue, Dick Emery, Les Dawson and, more recently, Little Britain, and also films like Charlie's Aunt, so men in frocks was nothing new but Kinky Boots did the drag queen thing with a lot of panache, exuberance and sheer fun.

There was a lot more to the show that drag queens though the story of how two different boys grew up and the relationships with their fathers seemed more designed to cynically pull the heart-strings than to add any real depth.

The main story of a shoe company falling on bad times and trying an innovative route to survival was fine even if the ending was telegraphed from the beginning. The main love story was telegraphed too though it took the characters longer to realise that they should be together than it took the audience. My star of the show was Lauren, the female half of the love story, who behaved just how a young woman falling in love should behave with much embarrassment to herself and amusement to us.

The other workers at the show factory were significant characters in the story too and that helped to lift the show above being a one-trick pony. Their relationship to their new boss had its ups and downs as the fortunes of the business changed and not all of them felt the same way about the proposed changes. The richness of the supporting cast was one of the show's big strengths.

Kinky Boots is known for its music because it was written by Cyndi Lauper famous for her pop hits in the 80's. The biggest of these, Girls Just Want to Have Fun, would have been ideal in this show but she did not write it. I thought that the music was fine too, if unremarkable.

The raucous audience reaction suggests that Kinky Boots is becoming a phenomena like Rocky Horror where the audience knows exactly what to expect and joins in heartily. I am not going to go that far but I am glad that I saw it and I was hugely entertained by it.

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