Kinky Boots review – high-kicking and colourful, but not quite the perfect pair

Adelphi, London
The costumes and choreography are full of brio, but a dull central character drags down this tale of transformative footwear

At the end, Kinky Boots comes together, in a battalion of footwear. Thigh-high, ankle-snapping, wet-look. One pair is red, white and blue to chime with a Britannia corset and blue busby. One goes with cricket whites; another with a pussy-pelmet Beefeater’s outfit; a third with a mini-ringmaster’s suit with tiny topper and black veil. Shoes suddenly seem, in the words of the opening song “the most beautiful thing in the world”.

These pairs come with mega-kicks, mega-smiles, mega-hair, mega-male body parts. The twist at the centre is no surprise to audiences who were crowding in days before press night; I sat next to someone who had travelled from Plymouth. Based loosely on “a true story”, and on the film starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Harvey Fierstein and Cyndi Lauper’s show sings of a Northampton-based shoe manufacturer who, finding its stalwart brogues undercut by cheaper foreign versions, turns to making glamour boots for drag queens. It is like an arranged marriage between Priscilla Queen of the Desert and Made in Dagenham. A sensible economic match.

Jerry Mitchell’s production is brimful of colour and, in the catwalk scene, of choreographic verve, but it often creaks and seldom soars. Sympathetic Killian Donnelly is saddled with a droopy-drawers part: dead dad, failure to wear high heels, struggling business and straggling songlines. Matt Henry as the drag queen has a big chance to blast and torch, which he takes. The best performance is from Amy Lennox as the production-line girl who gets off with the boss (“I just stuff his boxes”). Gawky and dainty, she makes comedy look like future of sex. But Kinky Boots is not the future of the musical.

• Kinky Boots is at the Adelphi theatre, London, until 6 February 2016. Box office: 020-3725 7068.


Susannah Clapp

The GuardianTramp

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