Theatre Review: Kinky Boots


Kinky Boots

From the book by Harvey Fierstein

Songs by Cyndi Lauper

Director and Choreographer Jerry Mitchell

Photos by Matthew Murphy

Capitol Theatre Sydney

Reviewed by Ron Lee, CSP


Having not seen the movie or read the media release, I went the Capitol Theatre to see Kinky Boots with no expectations or preconceptions, even though the hype surrounding this show has been huge.

Since 1890, the Price & Son have manufactured high-quality men’s shoes in Northampton, England. Charlie, the fourth generation heir-apparent to the footwear empire, is convinced by status-climbing fiancée Nicola (Teagan Wouters) to move to London to start a new life. As soon as they set up home, Price senior dies and Charlie returns to Northampton with the intention of closing the factory. With cheap, low quality imports having a negative effect on the British shoe industry, the business is in financial trouble, but the workers have been loyal to the business and to the family, and Charlie is in two minds.

On his return to London, Charlie becomes involved in a street fight and is knocked out. He wakes up in a seedy nightclub and fate has him meeting Lola, a drag performer. Their conversation turns to high-heeled boots and the difficulties in finding suitably robust ones. Charlie invites Lola to the factory and they decide to design high-heeled boots that will support a man’s weight and endure stage performances.


The niche is so inspiring that Charlie organises and appearance at a prestigious shoe show in Milan, but the budget is tight, Charlie is under immense pressure and he has heated arguments with his staff, Lola and the drag queens.

When Charlie travels to Milan, everyone has deserted him and he feels that he has no choice but to model the boots himself. When he topples off the catwalk, despair turns to fabulous. Lola and the drag queens have come to the rescue and they put on a show worthy of the days of Capriccio’s and Les Girls. Carlotta could well be pleased.

Kinky Boots has more than enough conflict and plot turns to keep you interested, with the factory workers divided, Nicola trying to convince Charlie to allow her to convert the factory into apartments and the blustering, homophobic Don (Joe Kosky) at war with Lola. At various times, Charlie is at odds with everyone else.

A pivotal plot moment occurs when Lola prevents Don from losing face in front of his fellow factory workers and he consequently adopts the life philosophy, “accept someone for who they are”, which, apart from entertainment, is the key message of the show.


Is a “tolerant” person one who puts up with another being different, or is a tolerant person to one who puts up with being victimised because they are different?

The strangest aspect of this musical is that, to me, the music is incidental. I was later reminded of a comment about Miss Saigon by a New York critic who wrote, “I walked out of the theatre humming a song from another musical”. I couldn’t remember the details of any of the songs in Kinky Boots, yet we were entirely emotionally engaged in those moments because of the intensity and relevance of the songs’ messages and the power of the delivery.

This production could not have been more perfectly cast, from the principals, to the factory workers, to the amazing drag queens who juxtaposed the dourness of industry in the East Midlands with the glitz and glam of a sparkling drag show.

Toby Francis is ideal as Charlie and his voice, as highlighted in his rendition of Soul of a Man, is spectacular.

As impressive as Toby Francis’ voice is, Callum Francis, as Lola, is sublime. His characterisation and stage presence are absolutely compelling. Francis’ soaring voice all but smashed through the high Capitol Theatre ceiling. Can a performer really be that good? When you can’t imagine anyone else in a role, yes, the performer is that good.

This is the production of the year so far, and it will take something extraordinary to surpass it.

Although Kinky Boots provides the ultimate feel good theatrical experience and is highly recommended for all theatre-goers, and even people who do not normally attend the theatre, I can already see a convoy, headed by Priscilla, heading down to the Capitol Theatre from Oxford Street.

If you want to be thoroughly entertained and believe there is still good left in this world, book for Kinky Boots ASAP. When word gets out, good seats could be hard to come by.

#Theatre

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