KINKY BOOTS Adelphi, WC1

THESE BOOTS ARE MADE FOR DANCING.  IF YOU DARE. 
Sequins, feathers, glitter, two and a half hours of hurtling from one noisy shining set-piece to another, this is more of a gig than a drama. If you’re fine with that – and why not – here’s your big night out. It’s less earnest than Made in Dagenham, less romantic than The Bodyguard, far less human than Once, or The Committments, or Memphis. But it is very, very Broadway: slick shiny, flicking the emotional buttons with economical briskness (being a Real Man, living up to your Dad, all that). Garlanded with Tonys, after Broadway and LA, Harvey Mitchell and Cyndi Lauper’s musical comes home with a British cast to the nation it’s about.
For the original movie – based loosely on some true events – is about a failing shoe factory in Northamptonshire saving itself by making specialist high-heeled footwear robust enough for the heftier drag queen. It was one of a slew of films – from The Full Monty and Brassed Off right through to the recent Pride (bound to end up as a musical, betcha) – whose theme is the late 20c decline of British industry, coupled with a rousing sense that hey, we’re warm-hearted people who love cabaret and gays so it doesn’t matter that we don’t make much any more.
Am I being cynical? Suppose so. But entertainment at this level is quite cynical itself. The story of Charlie (Killian Donnelly, as likeable and tuneful as ever) reluctantly taking on the factory and forging an unlikely partnership with Lola the drag queen is briskly narrated, big songs designed more as showstoppers than emotional plot-drivers. Likewise the collapse of his engagement to Nicola and his rapprochement with Lauren from the shopfloor . The homophobic horror of the conservative workforce, important in the film, is reduced to one thuggish dissident, Don, and resolved in another showpiece of a slo-mo boxing match between him and Lola. The glorious moment when George the veteran shoemaker overcomes his unease in the fascination of the technical demands of a stronger heel is pretty much thrown away between big belting X-factor-y numbers.
But hey, who cares? the showcase drag pieces are acrobatic, speactacular, breathtaking, glittery and funny (Jerry Mitchell directs and choreographs, asking feats of his stilettoed chorus-men way beyond what is probable, logical or wholly safe). David Rockwell ’s factory set is nicely adapted to the choreography, especially the moving conveyor-belt dance: a unique bit of staging if ever there was one. Donnelly is delightful as ever, deploying a wider emotional range than the script really deserves; Jamie Baughan is pleasingly gruff as homophobic Don, and as for Matt Henry as Lola, he’s a revelation: a spectacular cabaret artiste, queeny and showy but able – like Donnelly – to conjure up real feeling and a touching insecurity in between the big explosive numbers.

As for Amy Lennox as Lauren the factory girl who falls for the boss, her Northampton-accented lament, especially in The HIstory of Wrong Guys – is the funniest, freshest comic turn in a musical since Sheridan Smith burst on us in Legally Blonde. So though the sequins and unthreatening drag acts are pretty whoop-de-doo, and the two stars immaculate, for me it is Lennox – and the ensemble and the bonkers Gregg Barnes costumes – which overcame the cynicism and won the fourth star.
Box office 0844 412 4651
rating four    3 Meece RatingCostume design mouse resized (that last one is the customised costume-director mouse for Mr Barnes)

Advertisements

Comments Off on KINKY BOOTS Adelphi, WC1

Filed under Four Mice

Comments are closed.