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Fringe Theatre Variety

Review: Kinky Boots

Negotiating prejudices, the meaning of acceptance and masculinity, and how to find one’s place and passion in the world, the musical entertains with cheeky jokes, heartfelt confessions, and powerful cast numbers.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

With thigh-high, glittery boots and energetic choreographies, the musical Kinky Boots is certainly something for the eyes. What audiences get to see is an unusual combination: a musical about a high-end men’s shoe factory that turns to producing kinky boots for drag queens – performed at St. Augustine United Church. 

Inspired by a true story and based on the 2005 film, the musical follows Charlie, the son of a shoemaker in Northampton. Nothing could bore him more than shoes: in the first song ‘The Most Beautiful Thing in the World’ he interrupts the show with a grumpy “You do realise, you all are just talking about shoes?”. When his father suddenly dies, however, Charlie has to take over the ailing business. After a formative encounter with drag queen Lola, he has an idea to save the factory: high-heels that carry the weight of men and cater to the niche market of drag queens. As he stands up to sceptical workers at the shoe factory and his own prejudices, Charlie finds that he and Lola have more in common than they thought. 

The production by Bare Productions, an amateur musical group, impresses with elaborate costumes and an upbeat energy in a sold-out performance. Although initially less-than-engagingly staged, and with over-strained, too-loud voices, the show becomes entertaining with the first appearance of drag queen Lola. Frazer Beckles, convincing both as the male character, Simon, and as his drag persona, Lola, draws all eyes with good stage presence. 

Negotiating prejudices, the meaning of acceptance and masculinity, and how to find one’s place and passion in the world, the musical entertains with cheeky jokes, heartfelt confessions, and powerful cast numbers. The performers are at their best when delivering spoken dialogue and acting with just the right amount of focus and intensity needed to carry the audience along. 

During the number ‘Everybody Say Yeah’, the first fully immersive piece, it becomes clear that the venue is not conducive to creating the captivating energy the production deserves. Yet, in an exciting boxing match, the number ‘In This Corner’, the great staging makes up for what the venue cannot provide. 

Image: Gavin Smart

The audience, supplied with new drinks after intermission, goes along enthusiastically with the finally found dynamic this glittering musical needs. The final number, ‘Raise You Up/ Just Be’, is one to look forward to. Here, harmonies, queer power and uplifting energy meet in just the right place. It’s a shame that the first half has not yet shown this sparkling verve. To close, the true stars of the show, the boots, are put on parade one last time by the Angels, the drag artists in Lola’s entourage, causing the audience to erupt in a standing ovation.

Kinky Boots is at Paradise in Augustines (St. Augustine United Church) August 5-13, 19:25.

Image credit: Gavin Smart, provided to The Student as press images.