Thursday, 5 September 2019

THEATRE REVIEW: Kinky Boots - The Mayflower Theatre, Southampton.



I must by honest, after watching the West End production of Kinky Boots last year my expectations of last night’s performance at the Mayflower Southampton were set high, perhaps slightly too high. The story, based on the novel by Harvey Fierstein follows Charlie Price’s endeavour to save his father’s shoe factory. Lola, a drag queen, befriends Charlie and produces and line of steel high-heeled boots to recover the business. During this he forces Charlie to accept himself and others for who they are and the two soon realise they are not so different after all. The narrative, of course, it beautifully moving and topical given the growth and need for growth in tolerance of the LGBTQ+ community, but also hilarious at times. Even after the second watch and listening to the Broadway soundtrack numerous times I was left in tears after a beautiful rendition of “Not My Father’s Son” performed by Lola played by Kayi Ushe. The delivery was so organic and tender and the sentiment of the story washed through the entire audience.

The costumes of the production were absolutely fabulous, particularly in the final number, 'Raise You Up/Just Be', in which all of the “Kinky Boots” are modelled on the catwalk in Milan by Lola’s Angels. The knee-high patent leather boots were iconic and, married with various different styles, created an electric performance enhancing the uniformity and sync of the group. However, despite this, I was slightly disappointed with the collective performance of Lola’s Angels as a few of them noticeable fell out of turns and occasionally held the wrong arm or stepped on the wrong leg. Although these are only minor faults, they actually had a massive impact and totally ruined the effect created by the costumes which was previously empowering. This isn’t to say they weren’t all strong performers and their harmonies weren’t angelic but, it just felt slightly under-rehearsed.

Unfortunately, a few of the lead vocals were weaker than I expected. I felt some of the leads were unsure of what accent they should use, often switching through the songs and some of the cast actually fell off a few belts. This really shocked me as I strongly believed, until now, that the touring cast is of the same high standard as the West End show, but I’m afraid this simply wasn’t true. Saying this, each song was sincere or hilarious when needed, particularly Paula Lane’s performance of 'The History Of Wrong Guys', which felt genuinely heartfelt but was also timed perfectly making at every point maximising every joke. Her rendition felt honest and relatable and I loved it!

For me, the show was stolen by Lola. Kayi Ushe performed with sass and passion captivating the entire audience with his first look. His voice was luscious and calming but also sexy and still allowed Lola’s golden heart and kindness to pour out. He was vocally sound and pulled off every eccentric yet fierce outfit with flare and decorum. I could have watched an entire night of him, he was completely mesmerizing, I would even go as far to say he saved the show.

All things considered this is still an utterly brilliant show with Technicolor and massive social importance, it just did not meet my expectations.

Reviewer - Grace McNicholas
on - 4/9/19

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