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Tuesday, 25 June 2019

REVIEW: Kinky Boots at Sunderland Empire

Kinky Boots
Sunderland Empire
Until Saturday 6th July 2019
Online Tickets at http://bit.ly/KinkyBSund * #Ad


A feelgood hit to start the summer, Kinky Boots is a happy musical that both entertains and poses some deep questions about identity and acceptance. It has landed in Sunderland for two weeks and with its live band and fabulous cast, it is great night out.

Some of our older readers may recall a BBC tv series called Trouble At The Top? In one 1999 episode, a struggling shoe company, called W J Brooks Ltd, had decided to launch a range of male fetish shoes under the brand Divine Footwear. This inspired Geoff Deane and Tim Firth to write the screenplay for the film Kinky Boots, based upon that company, which hit the cinemas in 2005. Fast forward to 2013 and the Harvey Fierstein penned Broadway musical made its debut, complete with songs from the 80s star Cyndi Lauper.

In this tale, Charlie Price (Joel Harper-Jackson) inherits the family business Price & Sons. He is the fourth generation to run the firm but it is in a bad way as fewer people are buying well made, but dull shoes for men. Adding to his problems is that his heart is in real estate and he’d rather be in London with his fiancée, Nicola (Helen Ternent). A chance meeting with drag queen Lola (Kayi Ushe) makes him realise that there is a market for very sturdy stilettos...

The show starts with Don (Demitri Lampra) walking across the stage, taking a call and pointing out that phones shouldn’t be used. This was a different way to get the message across and it seemed to work were I was sitting – a nice chance not to have the glare of a mobile screen distracting from your view of the stage.

The show has a number of highlights: real chemistry between the cast’s central characters, a fabulous score played by a talented live band under musical director Patrick Hurley, a great ensemble which includes the unforgettable Angels and a fairly decent book.

The main character battles play off nicely. Central to them all is Joel Harper-Jackson’s Charlie. Helen Ternent plays a high maintenance girlfriend who is very materialistic. The character is not that likeable as Charlie has much more heart with regards loyalty to his employees. Speaking of which there are some great moments between Charlie and Lauren, played by soap-star Paula Lane, and between Charlie and the factory manager George (Adam Price).

The show-stealing action tends to be whenever Kayi Ushe fills the stage with their presence. Playing a larger than life character, Lola, and with some great songs including The Sex Is In The Heel and What A Woman Wants, Kayi’s charisma is as much about how it is said – or not spoken – that makes the difference. Lola had the bulk of the funnier moments too. The standoff with Demitiri’s Don adds much to chat about on the way home too.

Cyndi Lauper’s score is not a lazy melody that repeats the vocal line. The music supports the narrative. It didn’t feel like padding in the 2 ½ hour show, including interval.

The choreography, especially from Lola’s dancers ‘the Angels’ was in the tone of the rest of the show: both brassy and sometimes sentimental. The set, mainly of the factory, helped the story to develop without breaks. I did think performing on the conveyor belts did look hazardous!

Niggles? It was first night and the sound at the start had some issues especially with one mic – but it was resolved.

In my opinion, this musical was better than the film. We left the theatre feeling really positive, even though it was raining the weather couldn’t dampen our spirits. It may be The Full Monty (without the stripping) meets Priscilla Queen of the Desert at times but that distillation of success in the face of adversity is not that easy to get right. Now we need to add the cast recording to our collection. This show is a lot of fun.

Review: Stephen Oliver
Photos: Helen Maybanks

Book:                                                      Harvey Fierstein
Composer & Lyricist:                              Cyndi Lauper
Director & Choreographer:                     Jerry Mitchell
Musical Supervision,
Arranger & Orchestrator:                       Stephen Oremus
Scenic Design:                                        David Rockwell
Costume Design:                                    Gregg Barnes
Lighting Design:                                      Kenneth Posner
Sound Design:                                         John Shivers
Hair Design:                                             Josh Marquette



Tickets:

Tickets available in person at the Box Office on High Street West, Sunderland from the Ticket Centre on 0844 871 3022* or online from our affiliate ATG Tickets at http://bit.ly/KinkyBSund * #Ad

*Calls cost 7p per minute plus your plus your phone company's access charge. Booking and transaction fees may apply.


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