The plot of Kinky Boots treads a well-worn path: our hero, Charlie Price (David Hunter) struggles, gets help from an unlikely source in the shape of Lola/Simon (Matt Henry), achieves success and finds true love. But Cyndy Lauper’s award winning show feels constantly fresh and original despite this traditional motif. Unlike many Broadway musicals, the score’s heritage is 80s pop and wears this badge proudly – no harking back to musical cliches we’ve heard before here. True, it’s hard to find a tune you’d be singing as you emerge onto the Strand. But somehow, in the moment, this doesn’t matter. Perhaps it’s the sheer energy and commitment in the performance that overcomes this.
The story follows (sometimes line for line) that of the original film. How can Charlie turn round the shoe business left to him by his father? His fiancé is all for walking away. But Charlie encounters drag queen Lola and becomes convinced that the apparently niche market for ‘kinky’ boots strong enough to be worn by male drag artistes is enough to sustain a business.
There’s also the matter of the absence of a real antagonist. Charlie is battling the dubious inheritance of his father in his attempts to build a successful shoe factory. But he is fighting an anonymous enemy in the shape of changing tastes and foreign competition. We are offered a pantomime villain in the shape of boorish employee Don who has a closed-minded view of Lola and all she stands for. And of course this show is not about boots but about accepting people for who they are and accepting yourself for who you are. The message is laid on thick but with such warmth and glitz that you’re easily persuaded to forgive any shortcomings.
Sticking with its pantomime references, the show concludes with a fashion show which includes the traditional walk-down of ever more outrageous costumes. But by this point the entire audience has been successfully and willingly manipulated into a frenzy of enthusiasm and adoration for Charlie and Lola and all they stand for, proving that there truly is no business like shoe business.
Kinky Boots is performed at the Adelphi Theatre, London. For more information and to purchase tickets visit their website http://www.kinkybootsthemusical.co.uk