Culture Theatre

Kinky Boots | Theatre Review

By Sofia Brizio

★ ★ ★ ★

Before last night, all I knew about Kinky Boots was that it’s already a Broadway classic even though it only premiered in 2012, and I had a rough idea of the plot. Never would I have imagined that by the end of the musical’s opening night at the Welsh Millennium Centre I would be shedding tears of sadness and joy, and laughing all the way through every song. Kinky Boots tells the story of Charlie, a young man from Northampton who is desperately trying to save his family’s shoe factory from a seemingly inescapable crisis. The solution presents itself when Charlie stumbles across Lola, a drag queen working in London. He realises that drag queens wear women’s shoes which are by no means suitable to support a man’s weight, so he embarks on a new challenge: producing ‘kinky boots’ for drag queens, simultaneously filling a gap in the market and saving the factory. Lola’s role as a designer will mark the start of an adventure which will lead Charlie to an uproarious triumph on the high-fashion runways of Milan.

This story, written by Harvey Fierstein, put into music by Cyndi Lauper and directed by Jerry Mitchell, was the perfect recipe for an unforgettable night. While the whole cast kept the audience entertained from start to finish, the real shining star was Lola, played by Kayi Ushe. With the witty lines and a singing voice that gives you goosebumps, Lola quickly became the audience’s best friend, making them cheer, laugh and cry. From Land of Lola to What a Woman Wants and Hold Me in Your Heart, every number is a rollercoaster of emotions, a feast for both the eyes and the ears. Kayi Ushe brings Lola to life in such a wonderful and compelling manner that everyone’s eyes were glued to the stage all throughout the show.

The undeniable chemistry between Lola and Charlie (Joel Harper-Jackson) was, of course, the best part of it all. Although Harper-Jackson’s rendition of Take What You Got and Step One didn’t convince me, he completely won me over with Everybody Say Yeah and Soul of a Man, and I was moved to tears by the extraordinary duet Not My Father’s Son. Finally, Lauren (Paula Lane) and Don’s (Demitri Lampra) performance was the icing on the cake that made me wish the show could go on forever.

What I took away from last night is that Kinky Boots is not just your typical Broadway, feel-good story. It’s not just a lesson about accepting others either. It’s a journey towards self-discovery which not only raises important issues within the LGBT+ community, but most importantly tries to answer the question of what it means to be a man, blurring gender conventions in a wonderful mayhem of red heels and glitter where Charlie and Lola learn to accept themselves first and foremost. In the words of Lola, “be yourself. Everyone else is already taken”.

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