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Kinky Boots


The Playhouse, Edinburgh
Four stars

It’s a man’s world alright in downtown Northampton, where Charlie Price has just inherited a family business he never asked for in Harvey Fierstein and Cyndi Lauper’s award-winning Broadway musical, which arrives in Edinburgh for the festive party season as part of its first UK tour. A trip to London to try and offload an excess of sensible shoes changes everything when Charlie accidentally bumps into Lola, a drag queen nightclub diva whose high heels can’t quite take the strain, and Price and Son becomes a very different business as Charlie’s ideals take a sassier turn.

With roots in a real life incident and a subsequent feature film, on one level Fierstein and Lauper’s leather-clad yarn is the latest stage musical rooted in a very British post-industrial fall-out and hot off a production line spearheaded by Brassed Off and Billy Elliot. Like them, Jerry Mitchell’s production is also about family, community and acceptance of those who may not fit in with the accepted norm. Throw in Charlie’s upwardly mobile girlfriend Nicola and a slick-talking developer attempting to convert the shoe factory into luxury flats, and given recent efforts by real-life property magnates to do something very similar to long-standing businesses on Leith Walk, and this feels very current indeed.

Joel Harper-Jackson as Charlie and Kayi Ushe as Lola lead a high-stepping company through a stream of song and dance routines that reveal the mismatched pair as kindred spirits in a world of old-school prejudice. Ushe in particular belts out Lauper’s mix of heart-on-sleeve pop-art vignettes with soulful largesse, infectious sass and emotionally grounded oomph, and there is a fine duet with Harper-Jackson on Not My Father’s Son. The ensemble numbers are heightened even more by the glittery showers of showbiz pizazz brought into play by Lola’s troupe of all-male Angels, who strut their stuff on the catwalk to save the day in this most deliciously non-binary of musicals hand-crafted with a common touch.

The Herald, December 14th 2018

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