Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Boundless energy in Cyndi Lauper’s first venture into musical theatre.

Kinky Boots

A Cameron Macintosh presentation , Wales Millennium Centre , July-23-19
Kinky Boots by  A Cameron Macintosh presentation “The clothes maketh the man” so said Shakespeare. Yet here in Kinky Boots its more a case of “You could tell about a fella from his shoe”. For some time, several musical have been based on British films about people up North abandoning expectations. You only need to look at Billy Elliot, Calendar Girls and The Last Ship as a few examples. Kinky Boots has made an impact on the stage with its firm message and winning audiences over with decent songs.

This is the first time Cyndi Lauper, most famous for ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’, has written a musical and for a first attempt it’s not half bad. Some of the songs are memorable (thank god) and the fusion of dance, pop and rock is a very bit welcome bit of variety. Electric guitars, drums, dance club beats and reedy synths all feature throughout, complimenting the factory setting with the drag atheistic. The book written here is by Broadway titan Harvey Fierstein, best remembered (outside of appearing in multiple films and TV shows) for his work on La Cage aux Folles. The depiction of drag artistry and queer parenting challenged a lot of ideals seen at that time. It’s familiar territory for musical theatre to have these roles, Rocky Horror, Priscilla and Rent are good examples. Through this, we’ve come a long way and the proof of this is in Lola’s quote from Kinky Boots that “drag is mainstream”.

It’s a simple story of of a shoe factory in Northampton going under, run by Charlie, who has inherited it from his father. They are redeemed by the inspired ideas of a London based drag artist Lola, who shakes things up with a boot perfect for women and men who are more adventurous in what goes on their feet. Misconceptions are challenged and a variety of males each display their own expression of their gender, sometimes toxic, sometimes fabulous. Buy can they work together to make the fashion show in Milan a great success?

Some songs of note here include ‘Step One’, Charlie’s attempt at making a boot with sweet vocals, an imitate moment of an otherwise busy show. Lola educating the factory workers in ‘Sex is in the heel’, in a funky and often amusing segment. Lauren (who has a crush on Charlie) sings out ‘The History of wrong guys’ another witty part, showcasing her past with men and their many let downs. ‘Not my father’s son’ a touching duet for Lola and Charlie in how they both realise their fathers defined and controlled their lives, “We’re the same Charlie boy, you and me” is the line that segways into this heartfelt song. The end to act one is a tired ear worm, ‘Everybody say yeah’, after the first pair of extravagant boots are made. This is more of of a grand ensemble moment where everyone comes together to celebrate the start of a flourishing new business enterprise. The conveyor belts of the factory are here used to great effect as the drag Angels arrive and the lead cast get their daily exercise as the belt fragments to spread across the stage. Most of the songs feature in the first act (‘What a woman wants’ is a telling highlight in the second half), though the finale with the return of Lola in Milan is a stirring moment that needs to be seen live.

The cast make the show special. Kayi Ushe as Lola is spectacular. The diva moments are often hilarious, as he gets to be so over the top, making other cast members lose their composure and beginning to laugh out of character. He owns the songs as well, with a fierce determination that is easy to be swept away. Joel Harper-Jackson is Charlie, with a soaring voice during his ballads and has a relatable charm to the role. It must be said that these two own the show. The role of Lauren is here from Paula Lane, brimming with an energy and quick wit. Supporting roles comes from Demitri Lamar as burly, intimidating Don, Helen Ternent as Charlie’s fleeting love interest Nicola and Adam Price as George, the sexually unsure busy body elder member of factory staff. The ensemble cast of factory workers and Angels are also excellent in chorus numbers and dance routines. This looks like a show that they all have a great time performing in.


There are some great moments in the show. I found the slow motion boxing match between Lola and Don to be an inspired moment. Kinky Boots feels like a show that holds the beacon for drag, considering little is said about race here. It also has a lot to say about keeping business in the U.K. in this dark time for our politics. Whatever you get out of this show will most likely be positive.

I think you should pop your most glamours pair of boots on and strut your way down to the bay to see this.

Rating: 4 stars

Kinky Boots continues at the Wales Millennium Centre till July August

Reviewed by: WEEPING TUDOR

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