Thursday, 25 July 2019

Review: Kinky Boots at the Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff

Review: Kinky Boots at the Wales Millennium Centre - {Cardiff Theatre and Shows}

kinky boots uk theatre review 2019

I decided not to even look up the plot of Kinky Boots, never mind read others' reviews, because I wanted to go in blind and have no expectations. Literally all I knew when I plonked my butt on the seat was that it featured some fabulous drag queens and a very red pair of thigh high, heeled boots.

thelittlecardiffblog cardiff kinky boots uk theatre review 2019
Me and Lisa with Toyan Thomas-Brown and Joshua Lovell, who played two of the Angels. Lisa wearing THOSE boots!

From the promo images I'd anticipated a much bigger, more dramatic story, but it’s actually a simple tale, loosely based on a true story. Charlie Price works in his father's shoe factory in Northampton which manufactures solely (heh) rather drab looking men's shoes. His father dies, leaving Charlie to run the factory, which isn't doing very well as there's a lot of people in town selling the same boring shoes for less money. Times are tough and Charlie needs to come up with a plan. Enter Lola - our vivacious, screen-stealing drag queen who teams up with Charlie to help turn his product from beige brogues to 'kinky boots'.

kinky boots uk theatre review 2019

I will actively look out for performances by Kayi Ushe in the future because he absolutely smashed it, bringing intelligence, sex appeal, wit and an underlying vulnerability to Lola/Simon. It's worth seeing the show just for him.

Ushe is flawless in portraying the different layers to the multi-dimensional character, oozing confidence and beauty in one scene and showing heart-breaking vulnerability in the next. Joel Harper-Jackson as Charlie was energetic and suited the role very well, his chemistry with Ushe felt very natural.

the little cardiff blog at the millennium centre opening launch press night

On to Cyndi Lauper's musical score. To start with the negative, for me the ballads were a little weak, but the performers did their best with the material they had. I didn’t get teary eyed once and I love to get this feeling in a show (bit of a freak I know. I just think it’s commendable if a piece of work can make me really emotional!). I didn't enjoy the song 'History of the Wrong Guys' much, which was sung by Paula Lane as Lauren. I found it really unfunny and I wasn't sure if it was part of the character to sound like she couldn't sing or if she was just having an off day. 

I was just a bit gutted that nothing had the power to pack that punch to the gut that gets me weeping! 'Land of Lola' was a banger though, the one that brought the biggest smile to my face and was presented so cleverly too, contrasting the scenes in the factory against the queens' dazzling dance numbers. 

There were some really fun songs throughout, don't get me wrong. I feel like the last couple of paragraphs make me sound like a right moaner - they were very good and Kayi Ushe's vocals are exceptionally strong, such a unique tone. I just wish there had been one or two ear worms that had me searching for the soundtrack on Spotify on the way home. 

kinky boots uk theatre review 2019

Choreography was magnificent. The Angels were the stand-out part of the ensemble, 6 drag queens supporting Lola in her musical numbers. They had such a mesmerising presence that you couldn’t take your eyes off them and their costumes (Gregg Barnes) were designed with so much intricacy and individual variation. The use of the stairway was really well done and the conveyor belt dancing was another highlight. 

kinky boots uk theatre review 2019
Lauren's solo song....just bizarre! 

I don't like spoiling the end to the musicals in my reviews, but (maybe stop reading now if you're going to see it, as it's a light spoiler I suppose),  I have to say I found the ending a bit rushed. When one of the main characters has a breakdown and explodes with anger (expressing some quite problematic, cutting insults...that should really have been addressed,  explained and properly resolved the end of the show) the other characters are far too quick to forgive him without him even apologising. I just thought it would be more responsible for them to have delved into this a bit deeper rather than quickly get it all wrapped up, without consequence! There were other parts of the musical which did seem a bit dated, as a fellow blogger Kelly put it. You can read Kelly's review here where she goes into her thoughts on this in more detail, she raises a lot of points I didn't pick up on which are important to acknowledge.

So a bit of a mixed bag with this review, but I did really enjoy it and I would definitely say it's worth seeing! There were feel good vibes, some stellar performances and it's a sweet story on the whole. The theme of being happy with yourself and owning who you are is something we could all do with getting on board with and I left the show feeling uplifted!

Buy tickets for Kinky Boots and other musicals and shows coming up at the WMC by clicking here. Kinky Boots is showing here until 3rd August 2019.

(Blog and social content were produced in exchange for press tickets)

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