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  • Writer's pictureAlex First

Kinky Boots (James Terry Collective), at Chapel Off Chapel - 120 minutes, plus a 20-minute interval

Acceptance is the theme of the musical Kinky Boots, which is based on the 2005 film of the same name.


Charlie Price is a young man destined to take over his family’s Northampton-based shoe manufacturing business – the fourth generation to do so.


His father Harold has never thought otherwise.


And yet, Charlie doesn’t have a passion for footwear.

Photos by James Terry


Instead, he has his sights set on marrying his status conscious fiancé Nicola and moving to London to pursue marketing in a real estate business.


Then his dad suddenly dies … and everything changes.


Charlie reluctantly takes over responsibility for the business’ loyal staff, but a large, cancelled order sees it in serious trouble.


That is before Charlie has an unexpected encounter with a drag queen, Lola.

He alerts Charlie to the shoddy quality of expensive, high heel boots that he and other nightclub performers wear.


Not only that – the boots are designed to carry the weight of women, not men.


That gets Charlie thinking and the kernel of an idea is cemented by one of his production line staff, Lauren.


She urges him to pull his finger out and explore a niche market, in an attempt to save the business.

While not all on the factory floor – who are used to turning out quality, but conservative shoes – warm to the idea at first. Notably not “he man”, factory foreman Don.


But another shock follows, as Charlie appoints Lola – who has never designed footwear in his life – as designer.


His not so inconsequential assignment is to create a collection for the prestigious Milan International Footwear Exhibition, which is but weeks away.


What could possibly go wrong? Heaps!

Amidst the drama, there is much warmth and comedy in Kinky Boots, which premiered in Chicago in 2012 and opened on Broadway the following year.


The music and lyrics are by Cyndi Lauper and the book by Harvey Fierstein.


The show captured six Tony Awards, including Best Musical and Best Score, for Lauper’s first foray as a Broadway songwriter.


After a series of missteps, Lola’s mantra of being true to oneself permeates proceedings.


We also learn more about his upbringing and the obstacles he has faced.


Readily able to channel light and shade, Christian Charisiou is an inspired choice for the lead.

Carl de Villa brings a fiery determination to their realisation of Lola.


Jessica Faulker is gregarious as Lauren and Kelsey Halge suitably uppity as fiancé Nicola.


Joseph Lizacic adds tension as Don.


Drew Holmes maintains a respectful persona as factory manager George.


As Trish, one of the workers, Sally Bourne is gifted a couple of the best lines in the piece and delivers with aplomb.


Keagan Vaskess, too, has her moments to shine as office manager Pat.


I appreciated Dan Eastwood’s timbre as Harold Price.


Callum O’Malley brings vocal strength to his role as Charlie’s friend, Harry.


And then we have the colourful quartet of singers/dancers/drag artists known as The Angels.

Lochlan Erard, Carter Rickard, Jayden Prelc and Cody Green sizzle when they appear on stage.


Kinky Boots benefits from the fine choreography of Luca Dinardo and Jordan Charles Herbert.


As musical director, Nathan Firmin leads a 11-piece band that brings the best out of some terrific songs.


Among them is the opening number, Price and Son Theme/The Most Beautiful Thing in the World, along with Raise You Up/Just Be and Not My Father’s Son.


There is also Sex in the Heel, The Land of Lolo and Soul of Man, among the 15 strong repertoire.

The chorus numbers are rousing, while the score also features stirring solos.


The sound design by Marcello Lo Ricco and lighting design by Jason Bovaird impress.


The multilayered factory set – complete with six workbenches – works a treat, while Lola and The Angels’ costuming puts smiles on faces.


Then, just wait for the anything but restrained display of kinky boots as the musical reaches its zenith.

In summary then, the performers, led by director Martin Croft, have given us much to enjoy.


Lively and entertaining, Kinky Boots is playing at Chapel Off Chapel until 17th December, 2023.

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