(Seen at the preview performance on 3rd September 2015)
The monkey defies anybody to have any issue with cross-dressing, trans-gender or
any other “person who has not yet decided” after this punchy outreach programme.
Certainly, entering with a broad mind will help, but if a person is unconvinced
of just how normal everybody, meaning everybody, is, by the end of the first
half, then their inner bigot needs shooting.
The story is simple, the show’s
construction rather formulaic – ironic as the tale pushes so many boundaries,
but ultimately it mostly pays off.
A slightly grating and long opening
sequence featuring children – Edward Green and Nana Agyeman-Bediako (Young Charlie and Lola respectively).
isn't the kids faults;
they’re excellent, just tired writing. Then, from the first encounter between adult
Charlie (Killan Donnelly) and Lola (Matt Henry) the show suddenly kicks into
While Mr Donnelly brings a naïve charm to the factory owner’s son role,
it is Matt Henry’s show, night, life and probably an Olivier award at the end of
Dominating the stage with masterly comic timing, strong singing voice
but most of all deeply convincing character work, make certain you see his
performance if possible. No doubt his understudy is excellent, but this is a
“once in a lifetime” piece of musical theatre acting.
The pair get decent
backup too, and not just from the wonderfully booted “Angels.” Amy Ross makes a
strong, rightly peeved fiancée, while Amy Lennox extracts maximum comedy and
pathos as ditzy factory worker Lauren. In a tiny role, Robert Grose as Simon
Senior grabs a true scene-stealing moment, Jamie Baughan (Don) a strong
storyline (and neat “pre-show” phone announcement, very effective) with a
David Rockwell’s factory set is also superb – Charlie and The
Chocolate Factory could learn a thing or two - and the boots are fabulous.
The only issues the monkey had (and it is a Lauper fan) is that it found neither
music nor lyric that memorable, neither really driving the show forward as they
should. Expert song writer Lauper seemed to struggle to write lyric which moved
the story on, and used songs to repeat rather than continue speech. The most
irritating example coming before “Not My Father’s Son.” A decent song, but
already done fine in the spoken pre-amble, draining emotion as a result.
Unfortunately, it also has problems with the whole final 10 minutes of the show.
The design fizzled out – a truly horrible “fashion show” set, where curtains and
steel framework (as fashion shows usually have) would have sufficed; and the
story itself vanishes too.
Less experienced theatregoers will no doubt be bought off by the colourful
dance number, but the monkey expected proper closure, a moment where the triumph
of winning against odds is noted, marked and celebrated.
Still, it enjoyed the show very much, laughter, a cracking story and some
sound things to say. Hopefully these (Kinky) boots will be walking for
a long time to come.