Review: Kinky Boots, Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff

Review: Kinky Boots, Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff

There’s an element of extreme ingredients as kitchen sink drama meets catwalk glitz in Daryl Roth, Hal Luftig and Cameron Macintosh’s musical, Kinky Boots which is currently playing Wales Millennium Centre.

Inspired by true events, the show takes the audience from a down-trodden gentlemen’s shoe factory in Northampton to the glamorous catwalks of Milan. As Charlie Price struggles to run the family business of Price & Son, he finds help in the unlikely but spectacular form of Lola, a fabulous performer in need of some sturdy new stilettos.

Kinky Boots starring Joel Harper-Jackson at Cardiff’s Wales Millennium Centre until August 3, 2019.

Kinky Boots starring Joel Harper-Jackson at Cardiff’s Wales Millennium Centre until August 3, 2019.

Mesmerising, uplifting and challenging, Kinky Boots is very much a statement of how as humans we look upon other people and sometimes don’t see or accept others for who they really are. The central characters of the piece, Charlie and Lola, particularly find themselves addressing changes. While Charlie comes to terms with running a family business, addressing financial difficulty and stepping out of the shadow of a controlling girlfriend, Lola, safe in the world of drag performing, steps into a new working environment as a Kinky Boot designer, facing prejudice for his different outlook on life.

Of course, Kinky Boots not only tells Charlie and Lola’s story, it shouts across every lady, gentleman and those who haven’t decided yet in the ensemble. But despite the fact the show addresses issues such as sexuality, gender, prejudice and even family rejection, it also remains fun, accessible, laugh out loud and occasionally brings a tear to the eye.

Kinky Boots starring Paula Lane at Cardiff’s Wales Millennium Centre until August 3, 2019.

Kinky Boots starring Paula Lane at Cardiff’s Wales Millennium Centre until August 3, 2019.

Kinky Boots soundtrack, composed by 80s pop icon Cyndi Lauper is original, fresh and most importantly catchy. The ensemble cast and orchestra deliver the soundtrack with enthusiasm and passion, no doubt fuelled by the feedback and appreciation from the audience.

Much of the shows action takes place on a factory floor complete with metal stairways, shoebox pallets and a conveyor belt. The rusty metal girders occasionally bolt to life with bright lights to segue into Lola’s cabaret performances. Similarly, the factory plays its own part in the dance routine shenanigans as the cast dance on the conveyor belts in a natural feelgood style akin to a 1960s Cliff Richard musical for Everybody Say Yeah!

Kinky Boots starring Kayi Ushe, at Cardiff’s Wales Millennium Centre until August 3, 2019.

Kinky Boots starring Kayi Ushe, at Cardiff’s Wales Millennium Centre until August 3, 2019.

Outstanding throughout the show is Kayi Ushe, who brings a believable, accessible and animated presence as Lola. Ushe’s ability to utter a turn of phrase like a song lyric, while keep an air of authority and calmness to the sometimes-fraught challenges Lola/ Simon must address is both enjoyable and educational.  Ushe also delivers several Diva-licious performances including the wondrous, Land of Lola!

Joel Harper-Jackson as Charlie drives his characters changing attitude and focus through a believable portrayal. Slipping into the mode of singer extraordinaire, he chases the impossible with the melodic  Step One. Later, he duets with Kayi Ushe as their characters discover common ground with a touching performance of Not My Fathers Son.

Kinky Boots starring Kayi Ushe, Joel Harper-Jackson and Paula Lane at Cardiff’s Wales Millennium Centre until August 3, 2019.

Kinky Boots starring Kayi Ushe, Joel Harper-Jackson and Paula Lane at Cardiff’s Wales Millennium Centre until August 3, 2019.

Paula Lane plays brassy, lovable, Northern factory girl, Lauren, with warmth, energy and charisma. These qualities become evident as she discovers her crush for Charlie when performing The History of Wrong Guys. Lauren’s response to getting an “executise” or “promotion” is pure comedy, which unfurls an inner strength from the character not only on the production line, but as a rock for Charlie.

Demitri Lampra’s sterling portrayal as the judgemental and opinionated Don, becomes more defensive as he attempts to come to terms with Lola’s individuality and character on the factory floor. His bout with Lola in the boxing ring is a beautifully structured part of the production, as is the thought-provoking challenge he receives from Ushe’s Lola following the outcome.

There are many wondrous supporting performances throughout Kinky Boots. Each actor is true to their individual character which in turn reflects Oscar Wilde’s quote mentioned in the piece, “Be yourself – everybody else is taken!” Wise words in a world which currently prides itself on stereotypes. Kinky Boots displays individuality perfectly and no matter what or who you are in life, deserves to be enjoyed and embraced by all who see it.

  • Kinky Boots continues its run at Wales Millennium Centre until August 3, 2019.

  • Photos by Helen Maybanks

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