Kinky Boots at the Alhambra Theatre Bradford Review

15-26 October 2019

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Kinky Boots

Reviewed by Jenny Bray

I have to start by confessing that the only thing I knew about this show prior to seeing it is what other people had told me about the storyline; that it was about a shoe factory in Northampton that was going to go out of business until it started making boots for drag queens. Although that is a basic summary of the storyline, which sounds like it could be a bit boring and drab, it is about so much more than that.

The show is based on a film of the same name written by Geoff Deane and Tim Firth that was made in 2005 and was inspired by true events shown in a BBC documentary in 1999 called ‘Trouble at the Top’. Harvey Fierstein and Cyndi Lauper created the stage show musical version that I saw today, which Jerry Mitchell choreographed, for which the original premiered in 2012. Since then it has won every major musical award including the Tony, the Grammy and the Olivier.

Charlie Price (Joel Harper-Jackson) is the son of Mr Price and is not keen on following in the footsteps of his father in the shoe making business. Instead, he is eager to move to London with his girlfriend Nicola (Helen Ternent) to escape Northampton and his Dad’s shoe making factory. However, shortly after he moves to London his father dies and he becomes responsible for the family business, which is losing trade. When Charlie is trying to save the business, he states to a friend that, ‘poor people stay poor as they buy cheap shoes’. Once that deal is done, he happens to meet Lola (Kayi Ushe), which takes him down a whole different route to saving the business by using some business acumen to change to a niche market of high heeled boots with strong enough heels to support men wearing them. However, his first attempt does not go down well and so he enlists Lola to help with designing the boots. Many of the factory workers don’t exactly agree with Lola’s image or lifestyle, particularly Don (Demitri Lampra), a stereotypical man’s man, who ends up clashing with Lola until they each undertake a challenge. I particularly enjoyed the slow-motion scene in which Lola is participating in Don’s challenge.

The second half of the show is about Charlie trying to get everyone to club together to produce some high-quality designs for a Milan fashion show in order to save the business. However, Charlie rejects many of the boots that the team are producing as they are not perfect and then upsets Lola so she goes off to perform in a care home in Clacton instead of boarding the plane to Milan when she is supposed to.

There is a love story intertwined throughout, initially between Charlie and Nicola when escaping to London and then when Lauren (Paula Lane) decides that she has a crush on Charlie.

There’s also a touching duet between Lola and Charlie when they sing, ‘Not My Father’s Son’. Lola knows that her father did not approve of the career route that she went down and Charlie is not convinced that his father would have been impressed by his choices for the factory either.

Kayi Ushe, as Lola, was the standout star of the show for me. His impressive vocal range and amazing strut really made the show. I can’t even walk straight in heels, so I was suitably impressed at the moves he managed while in 6 inch stilettos. He is tall without heels on so towered above everyone else when in high heels, which just enhanced his look.

The vocals weren’t always amazing when the whole cast were singing but the funky strutting and fun storyline with lots of comedy made up for it. I was mesmerised by the cast’s ability to dance and strut in really high stiletto heeled boots. The choreography for Lola and her Angels dancing to ‘Sex is in the Heel’ was amazing as they all strutted around owning the stage.

The stage setting was mainly the Price and Son factory, either within the factory and the production lines or just outside. At one point there is a dance scene that goes on both on and around the moving production lines. The factory workers clothes were standard casual clothes in drab colours which were in stark contrast to Lola and her ‘Angels’ fabulous sparkly outfits, sky high heels and heavy makeup.

Having now travelled into Bradford a few times, I knew that there was a cheap car park behind the National Science and Media Museum which is right by the theatre. The parking there is only £1 for the evening when arriving after 6pm. There are also several other car parks nearby and within easy walking distance of the theatre. The Alhambra Theatre itself is a well-lit up impressive looking building on a corner in the centre of Bradford. It is a traditional theatre, although the main entrance to the theatre building on the ground floor looks modern. On the ground floor there is a ticket kiosk and a kiosk for purchasing soft drinks and sweets. On the first floor is a bar which also sells cake (a winner in my eyes!). All the staff encountered were very friendly and welcoming.

If you’re looking for a light-hearted and fun musical, which just happens to often involve a male owning the stage while wearing a wide selection of very impressive, very high stiletto boots and shoes, then this is the show for you! I almost left wanting some sparkly, thigh high boots… then I remembered that a) I wouldn’t be able to walk in them and the male cast would put me to shame and b) much as they looked amazing I would probably actually never wear them anywhere in real life. Doh! Back to reality…

Rating: 4.5/5

Tickets cost from £20.50 to £56.50 (booking fees may apply).

Kinky Boots is at the Alhambra Theatre in Bradford from 16-26 October 2019, for more information or to book tickets visit www.bradford-theatres.co.uk or call the box office on 01274 432000.

Alhambra Theatre, Morley Street, Bradford, BD7 1AJ | 01274 432000

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